The cornerstone of the Dallas Mavericks franchise, 6'7" swingman Michael Finley has seen the club through some bad times. Fortunately, with the emergence of foreign sensations Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash, Finley is now the unquestioned leader of a club with a good shot at an NBA championship title.
Born on March 6, 1973, Michael Howard Finley knew from a very early age that he was destined to be a basketball player. And the game's greatest player apparently thought so, too. As a high school senior at Proviso East in Maywood, Illinois, Finley won a nation-wide TV contest. His prize was a game of one-on-one with Air Jordan himself. Jordan, who was obviously impressed by Finley's skill said to him, "Maybe I'll see you again in a few years."
Finley played out his college career at the University of Wisconsin, where he majored in business. A four-year starter, Mike was named All-Big Ten Conference twice, and upon graduation boasted career averages of 18.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, and 3.2 apg. Currently, he is UW's all time leader in career points, field goals made and attempted, free throws made, and 3 point field goals made and attempted.
In the 1995 NBA Draft, Finley went 21st overall to the Phoenix Suns. In his rookie season, Finley notched 15.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg, and 3.5 apg, and made the All-NBA Rookie First Team.
On Dec. 26, 1996, in his sophomore season, Finley, along with Sam Cassell, A.C. Green, and a second round draft choice, went to the Dallas Mavericks for Jason Kidd, Tony Dumas and Loren Meyer. Because of the trade, Finley was one of the few players to accomplish the rare feat of playing 83 games in a season, as opposed to the regular 82.
In his first full season with Dallas, Finley started all 82 games, and averged an explosive 21.5 points per game (11th highest in the league). He led the league in minutes played, with 41.5 per game, and became the first Maverick to lead the team in points, assists, steals and minutes
Finley made his first All-Star appearance in 1999-2000, after starting all 82 regular season games for the Mavericks, and averaging 22.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.33 steals per game in 42.2 minutes per game. Finley was third in the league in triple doubles with four, and only one behind league leaders Jason Kidd and Chris Webber. He also joined the likes of Grant Hill, Kevin Garnett, and Gary Payton as one of only four players who averaged over 20 points, 5 rebounds, and five assists per game. In 2000-2001, Finley made his second consecutive All-Star appearance after starting all 82 games and leading the league in minutes again. Dallas' second leading scorer, Finley averaged 21.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg and 4.4 apg in 42.0 mpg.
Finley became a free agent
in the summer of 2001, but rather than shopping around for the best deal possible, he immediately re-signed with Dallas
. His new deal guaranteed him $102 million in seven years, which officially made him the highest-paid Maverick
. While he could have earned even more money by signing on with another team
, Finley realized that Dallas was the place
to be: "I didn't want to leave something halfway built," Finley said about his decision. "We still have a little ways to go to get to our ultimate goal
. I wanted to be a part of that because I was here in the days when we were struggling
, and I want to be here in the days when we're celebrating."
In his fifth season, Finley averaged 20.6 ppg, the 17th highest in the NBA. Being a player whop always comes through for his team, during Dallas' postseason run Finley upped his scoring to 24.6 ppg, which tied for 8th highest.
Despite being often overlooked entirely or discussed as trade bait by fans who can only see Dallas in terms of the UberMan Nowitzki, Finley is unquestionably the heart and soul of the team, who has carried them through numerous games during the regular and post seasons. And while an endless list of NBA players have recieved hefty amounts of criticism for declining invitations to represent the USA in international tournament play, Finley will never be one of them. He has been a part of four American national teams, including the one that finished sixth in the World Championships in Indianapolis. Still, he tried, which is more than Kobe Bryant can say.