DALLAS _ The last time the Dallas Mavericks met the Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs was back when the Mavs began their close connection with their fans.
It was 1988, and the Mavs were just in their eighth NBA season. And there they were battling the iconic Lakers, toe-to-toe, in the Western Conference Finals.
Reunion Arena – the Mavs’ home at the time – was so loud it was about to blow its stack. And then-Mavs owner Don Carter was loving every loud burst from the Reunion Rowdies.
“You couldn’t hear anything back then,’’ said Derek Harper, the Mavs’ point guard during that time. “In fact, Mr. Carter -- I see him all the time -- and that’s one of the things that we always end up talking about is the old rowdies.
“Just how loud and into the games that they were. I’m a little bias to those days and the support that the fans gave us.’’
The upstart Mavs took Magic, Kareem, Worthy and the big, bad Lakers to seven games in ’88, where they lost Game 7 at the old Forum in Los Angeles. But the love affair between Harper, his teammates and the Mavs’ fans was just beginning.
“I think the newness of the Mavericks going that far in the playoffs at that time, it was just crazy and it was baffling,’’ Harper said. “I remember just how rowdy it was back then.
“I sit down at courtside now – and I’m not knocking the Mavericks fans. But I think we all know what the fans here are about you giving them a reason to cheer.’’
That certainly wasn’t the case in the 1980’s. After dropping Game 7 in LA, 117-102, the Mavs were surprised when they landed at DFW Airport.
“We didn’t have a private plane and I just remember so much support out there at the airport,’’ Harper said. “There were so many dog-gone fans out there, and the fans just showered us with respect and were happy for us.
“You can say what you want, but when you find a way to please 20,000 people and a lot more people around the Metroplex, it seemed like you’ve been successful anyway. So that sticks out.’’
-- Dwain Price
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