Tribute to an Aviator: Welcome to ‘Jason Terry Day’

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 31, 2012 under Commentary | 9 Comments to Read

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Although Jason Terry only agreed to contract terms with the Boston Celtics a few short weeks ago, he had been outbound from Dallas for months. He auditioned and he campaigned, but only because he knew that the writing was on the wall; it was time for him to go, and time for him to leave the franchise he had helped make whole.

It’s been noted once or twice that the NBA is a business, but in this instance that fact is inescapably true. The decision to part ways with Terry was as shrewd as it was necessary; for the Dallas Mavericks to move forward, they had to let go of a long-tenured leader, a plucky personality, and a damn good basketball player, if only because his contractual preferences didn’t — and couldn’t — align with those of the franchise. There’s an alternate universe out there where a championship core remains intact and Terry is allowed to retire a Mav, but such a finale proved to be a touch too quaint for this world.

So the JET departs for Boston, and a player whose Maverick career was laced with controversy and debate was allowed a graceful, drama-free exit. Terry was never what everyone wanted him to be — he wasn’t a point guard, he wasn’t an expert defender, and he wasn’t two or three inches taller — but he stands to this day as one of the best things to ever happen to the Mavericks franchise, imperfections and all.

It’s for that reason that The Two Man Game somewhat arbitrarily dubs July 31, 2012 to be “Jason Terry Day” — a single day set aside to appreciate and reflect on the career of a Maverick in egress. Friends will be coming by shortly to share their thoughts on the JET and his time in Dallas, and I’d encourage you to do the same; feel free to use the comments section as your personal soapbox, or tweet me your thoughts on Terry (@RobMahoney, using the hashtag #JETday, or both) for inclusion in ‘Peanut Gallery’ section of this post. JET-related content will be coming in waves, so be sure to check back throughout the day or keep an eye on my Twitter feed (again, @RobMahoney) for updates.

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I.

GOLDEN

The following was originally posted on March 29th, 2012.

Tonight the Dallas Mavericks will return to Miami for the first time since they bathed Club LIV in champagne. Much has changed since last June, but the American Airlines Arena will always be something of a second home to these Mavs — an enemy territory made comfortable in triumph, and remembered fondly for victorious portraits, cherished moments and a stolen throne.

The Mavericks may no longer be the league’s best team, just as they likely won’t win in their nationally televised rematch against the foe they bested for the NBA title. But somewhere within that arena are tiny bits of confetti that can never be fully swept away. They could bleach the hardwood bare, but it would still have the sweat and tears of those exultant Mavericks deep in the grain.

The juxtaposition of these teams and this setting will always bear certain memories. For Dirk Nowitzki, it may hold a flashback of that final, powerful moment—one so strong that he hurdled the scorer’s table and bounded down the arena’s halls to find a single quiet corner following the Mavs’ Game 6 victory. For LeBron James, it may hold a daydream of what could have been had things proceeded closer to the script and had his series not taken a turn for the inexplicable. But for Jason Terry, it’s all golden — from the constitution of that long-coveted trophy to the Nostradamic tattoo that blessed his invaluable shooting arm.

All the way down to, apparently, the pair of custom gold kicks that Terry hasn’t worn since opening night of this season. Those shoes are set to make a repeat appearance tonight, per Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com, because Terry is simply forever in character.

The hardwood floor is a stage on which he must perform, but JET goes through more effort to enhance his act than any other player in the league. He’s a walking, talking — always, always talking — hype machine, equipped to rally fans, jeer opponents and whip an arena of both friends and enemies into a frenzy. Terry simply has no regard for the NBA’s fourth wall. He treats every game as a completely interactive experience, and in that approach, he’s carved out a special place for himself as player turned provocateur.

Terry seems to cherish being loved in Dallas almost as much as he adores being reviled elsewhere, but his showmanship is always balanced carefully with legitimate production. Though it’s doubtful that JET appropriates his chatter relative to his performance, he has the benefit of making exactly the kind of plays that silence his most vocal critics.

He creates effectively for himself off the dribble. He hits pull-up jumpers emblematic of transcendent guards past. He has a well-earned reputation for producing at the end of games. Terry’s efficiency and approach somehow embody both the push toward per-possession maximization and the fetishization of an old school mentality. He’s perfectly in line with the breed of isolation-empowered guards that ruled the previous era of basketball analysis (and still informs the perspective of the casual fan to this very day), but Terry also stands out as one of the most efficient mid-to-high-usage shooters of his era. JET certainly has his nights where he overshoots his welcome, but in total he’s been precisely the kind of shot creator and motivator the Mavericks have needed.

Terry may well be Dallas’ megaphone, but he also acts as the team’s emotional dynamo. The Mavericks’ leadership is operated by committee, and though Nowitzki may lead by example and Jason Kidd by experience, Terry’s brashness has its value within the franchise’s greater restraint.

After all, it took a certain brashness to steal two games at STAPLES Center from the Lakers en route to an eventual sweep, to drop the favored Thunder and keep the title window open, and to topple the Heat in highly improbable fashion.

Even if the other Mavs don’t operate at the same volume as Terry, they willingly embrace the boldness of his personality. They’re so entrenched in that JET-fueled confidence at this point that they use every bit of perceived disrespect to strengthen the bunker they’ve built for themselves.

Each of those crowned Mavericks have worn their golden shoes in one way or another — some as proudly and defiantly as JET and some in ways far more understated but no less telling. That confidence, that arrogance, that audacity — it’s altogether as fundamental to the franchise’s identity as Nowitzki’s unstoppable fadeaway, Donnie Nelson’s quiet machinations, or Rick Carlisle’s persistent tinkering.

It’s the competitive fire that fuels a well-structured machine, and although some might find its frequent manifestations distasteful, Terry has effectively served as a living refrain of all that Dallas has ever hoped to accomplish. He yaps, he shoots, and he spreads his wings, but behind both Terry the showman and Terry the player is a cornerstone of the culture that made the Mavericks champions.

– Rob Mahoney

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ALL OF IT

Jason Terry loves this shit.

There are players who are capable of masking everything, and you walk away, if you have any perception at all, realizing that what they have just expressed was deliberate. That you’ve been manipulated. There are players who give the requisite level of involvement, that provide the cliches with a deadness in their eyes. They do the work, but you know they’re counting seconds in their head until you’re gone. They love the game, or they love the money, but it doesn’t shine through. Not on the court. Not on the floor.

But Jason Terry loves this shit. All of it.

He loves the interviews and the trash talk and the opportunity to play a game he loves in front of millions of people. He loves grinning at questions geared to incite an answer, he loves the roar of the crowd. All of it.

He loves the shots. Big, bigger, biggest. There is nothing that comes to my mind quicker when considering Terry than the simple words: “Huge shots.”

The man seems to only exist in the cultural context for that moment with the ball in the air, the hand extended, turning into that freakin’ airplane, the crux of the contact with net, the crowd detonating. That’s who he is, that’s where he lives, to everyone beyond his family and friends.

There’s something intensely refreshing about the fact that Jason Terry has just had a good career for a good team and enjoyed it. No heightened-beyond-belief expectations with Nowitzki always present to cover. No serious drop-off with his best years present with the Mavs. The freedom of not having historical context means he can be satified with his play, with what he’s accomplished, without being vetted by the harshest of critics.

Terry’s sense of theatrics can grind on your nerves if you’re not in his corner, but it’s something essential to sports. When everyone freaked out over the rule changes designed to limit complaints to officials, the phrase “you don’t want players to be robots,” repeatedly came up. But they were never going to be — not with players like JET around. There will always be guys like Terry running around with their arms out like airplanes, getting tattoos about trophies, tweaking their opponents, and leaving them gasping after he’s choked the life out of them from the arc.

And you need them. You need them for entertainment, and for the sense of grandeur that has to be part of the sporting experience. It makes the entire league better, a better sport. It makes fans happy (or incredibly pissed off, depending on the laundry).

Yes, Dwyane Wade will be in the Hall of Fame someday and yes, Kobe Bryant will have debates on where his statue should go. But Terry’s going to be the guy that people in Dallas bring up in bars and tell stories about, the single album from that guy that only a handful of people know, but love. You have to have seen him to appreciate him, but if you’ve seen him, you wouldn’t forget him.

How could you? He looks like he was having so much fun doing all of it.

Like I said, he loves this shit.

– Matt Moore (@hpbasketball; CBS Sports, ProBasketballTalk, and Hardwood Paroxysm)

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VALAR MORGUILIS

The first thing I remember about Jason Terry was the debate about his position. Maybe it’s because when he came into the league in 2000, my knowledge of basketball was still in its infancy and largely based on NBA2K and NBA2K1. Was he a point guard? I didn’t care about point guards. Was he a shooting guard? Oh I cared about shooting guards, but they had to be crafty and fast like Iverson or highlight reel dunkers like Vince Carter. At 6’2” he was undersized for the two but also showed little interest in genuinely running Atlanta’s offense. This indeterminacy about his role kept me from ever drafting or trading for him in the game and, oddly, it seemed to similarly dog him in real life for his first few years in the league.

But then something happened following the Mavericks’ collapse against the Miami Heat in the 2006 finals. Terry started coming off the bench and suddenly, with his gunning limited to sprints in key spots, he stepped into a role that fit him. The airplane antics, the PUJITs (if Stephen Jackson makes love to pressure, JET makes loves to PUJITs), the headband and tall socks: all of these things were no longer the trappings of madness but instead quirky and quasi-adorable. Like Manu Ginobili before him and James Harden since, Terry made a virtue of the bench.

That’s what I’ll most remember his stint on the Mavs for. Before Michael Beasley was traded to the Suns and when there a few whispers about Terry coming to the Timberwolves (a team badly in need of help at shooting guard last season), there was a sliver of gossamer hope that he could teach Beasley to be like him: to not need to start, to not have the offense revolve around him, but instead to step in and mercilessly finish another team with a flurry of daggers when it counted. In Dallas, Terry became a beacon of hope to every Beasley, every O.J. Mayo, every J.R. Smith, whether they chose to see it or not.

There was a scene in this past season of Game of Thrones where Arya, the misplaced daughter of the Stark clan who’s trying to find her way back home, is saved by the assassin Jaqen H’ghar. For a young girl, she has a surprisingly long list of people upon whom she needs to exact revenge and having seen H’ghar do his thing, she wants to learn how. He tells her they would have to travel across the sea to Bravos. “My dancing master was from Bravos,” she says and H’ghar responds, “To be a dancing master is a special thing. To be a faceless man: that is something else entirely.” No one’s ever going to mistake Jason Terry for faceless, not with his celebrations, his swagger. But in disappearing from the starting lineup, he created his own mini-positional revolution. Freed from the the starter’s demands he couldn’t live up to, he went beyond position and found a role he could overfill: that of pure skillset, of deadly weapon.

– Steve McPherson (@steventurous; Hardwood Paroxysm and Feelings Aren’t Numbers)

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TALL TALES

Bill Simmons has a recurring joke he digs out in mailbags: the “All Irrational Confidence Team.” For the longest time, Vernon Maxwell was the captain, and a well-deserved one at that. In the story he wrote after Game 6 of the 2011 NBA Finals, however, that captaincy got passed along.

The captain’s C was given to the guy who tattooed the Larry O’Brien trophy on his arm before the season at DeShawn Stevenson’s house party. The guy who, after two less-than-stellar Finals games, told the best player in basketball that he’d be shutting him down for the rest of the series — and actually did. The only showoff who’s ever said “Nobody likes a showoff,” on national television. The guy who had Top Gun intros at the AAC and an infectious nickname and a never-fail, grin-sparking signature move. The guy who raffled off a championship ring for charity and coached his daughters’ basketball team and ran his mouth constantly.

That was his charm: he could never be told he couldn’t. He always could, and would, and somehow, miraculously, did. I remember thinking in 2004 that nobody could replace Steve Nash. Now, in 2012, all I can think is that I’m sure as hell glad Donnie did.

Because, someday, people my age will take their kids to wherever the Mavericks call home. And just like our parents speak to us with great fondness and warmth in their eyes of their Reunion Rowdies days with Brad and Ro and Harp, we’ll tell ours about, among others, the crazy guy on Victory Avenue who pretended he was an airplane and somehow always made the shot when Dallas needed it the most: when nobody thought he could.

– Garrett King (@garrettkingsays)

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II.

STOMPING GROUND

Any time a there’s a player who isn’t quite a point guard but is too small to be a shooting guard, someone is sure to wishfully speculate: “Well, he could come off the bench and be a Jason Terry-type guy.”

Terry is the “combo guard” by which all others are measured, which means he’s a player whose talents end up being projected on plenty of players who aren’t deserving. Terry, despite his unspectacular athletic profile and normal-human size, is a unique player. For all that’s unremarkable about him, he happens to shoot a pull -up jumpshot as well as anyone in the world.

In Seattle summers past, I would work as a sports camp counselor. My boss, Rudy, was a former Harlem Globetrotter who had been a big part of the youth basketball community in Seattle for many years. Terry went to Franklin High, a school that has become famous for producing point guards (Aaron Brooks and Peyton Silva, most recently), and worked with Rudy as a youth. Even as youthful accomplishments dwindle in importance, that I learned to shoot with the same guy who taught Jason Terry remains a source of pride.

Rudy’s shooting philosophy was simple. A lot of one-handed work to lock in shot-pocket mechanics — keep that ball on your finger tips! — and a major emphasis on balance via foot work. He wouldn’t let you walk on the court standing straight up. You had to be low to do anything in a game, so you had to be low at all times in practice.

When it came to jumpers, Rudy would constantly bark the phrase, “One piece!”

He wanted that energy generated in the jump to be transferred from your toes through your knees and hips up through a still torso and finally to flow out through the tip of your middle finger — the last part of your body to touch the ball on a proper shot.

Watch Jason Terry and it’s all there. The steady balance, the perfectly still core as he floats to the apex of his surprisingly (at least to me) explosive leap, and finally the high release that captures all the energy and sends the ball floating upwards — Rudy: “Shoot up, not out!”

Jason Terry jumpers are never flat.

It’s all the more impressive because, unlike just about everyone else, Terry loves to shoot going to his right. Most players, like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, drive to the right and pull-up to the left.  Going to his weak hand aligns a player’s shooting shoulder with the rim. But dribbling right forces Terry to rotate his shoulders in mid-air without flying off balance.

Another little thing about Terry’s jumper that I’ve always appreciated is that he’s money from weird distances, like 12 feet on a fast-break. Whether a 25-foot bomb, a classic 17-footer off a pick-and-roll or a delicate in-betweener interrupting a full sprint, once Terry plants his feet the form is exactly the same.

Terry is “pointier” than most combo guards and an excellent decision-maker out of pick-and-rolls. He shoots spot-up 3’s like a shooting guard who can subsist without the ball in his hands. But it’s his pull-up that gives him the ability to inhabit both identities — the steady ball-handler and deadly gunner — and makes him the model combo guard. A model no other player has truly replicated since Terry came to the Mavs in 2004, despite all those who would be cast in his mold.

– Beckley Mason (@BeckleyMason; ESPN.com, HoopSpeak)

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BRIGHTEST LIGHTS

For his reflection on Jason Terry, Ian Levy opted for a video walkthrough of each Jason Terry field goal made during the 2011 NBA Finals:

– Ian Levy (@HickoryHigh; The Two Man Game, Hickory High, Indy Cornrows)

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PORCELAIN AND DELUSION

In college I watched a friend drink out of the toilet.

Okay, I didn’t just watch. I encouraged him. I yelled his name and chanted, “Drink! Drink!” with a group of friends and laughed hysterically when the drunkard did it and looked up at us with his little puppy-dog “Did I do it right?” expression. I feel bad about this now, but whatever. He was argumentative and always had to be right. He made everything into a competition and, if he won, you’d hear about it. He knew every single two-letter word in the dictionary because he needed to be able to beat you at Scrabble. Watching him with his dignity in the toilet and a toilet in his face was deeply satisfying.

Deeply. Wrong word.

Anyway, he’d been the most booksmart person in his circle his whole life. Now he was at one of the top schools in the country, a year younger than his new friends because he’d skipped a grade. He had to assert that he was on everyone else’s level. It was annoying.

It worked for him in some ways, though. The overconfidence masked a lack of real confidence, but sometimes faking it paid off. His way-too-intense competitive drive ensured he got better grades than any of us while spending most of his day financing his binge-drinking playing multiple online poker games at the same time. Since he HAD to be able to win arguments, he ended up informed and well-read. The whole act was so transparent that it was sort of endearing after seeing him at his lowest.

And that brings me to Jason Terry.

There are those who would have loved for Terry to have to remove that tattoo of the Larry O’Brien trophy. There are those who hated it every time he spread his arms and pretended to be an airplane. And even though I’m a Terry fan, I get it. I enjoyed watching a human being drink toilet water.

Everyone appreciates the quiet confidence of Ray Allen. Jason Terry will never be Ray Allen. But he has his way, and it works. He believed he’d win a title when he shouldn’t have and he was right. He tells himself he’s way better than he is, then plays like it. The city of Dallas understands this, soon Boston will too.

– James Herbert (@outsidethenba; Hardwood Paroxysm)

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COMING TO TERMS

I have to keep this short, because if it is any longer, I will (A) probably be fired, and (B) crying in the corner of my office.

When Mark Cuban made the decision to let the champs go their separate ways, I was torn. I knew the Mavericks had to get younger.  I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. I just could not accept it. I, like other Mavs fans, had bonded to this team. Collectively, we had shared the heart break of 2006 and 2007, the mediocrity and first round exits that followed. But this was our team.

Watching this team split up was hard.  We saw Tyson move to the Knicks and win defensive player of the year.  We saw Caron join the Clippers and help end their playoff drought.  And I knew that one day, we’d see JET fly off to another city to wear another jersey.

As Mavs fans, we had seen players come and go. We had Antawn, Antoine, Nash, Finley, Bradley, Harris, and countless other as the roster remained liquid.  But for some reason, JET is the one I will miss the most. He came in to replace Steve Nash, one of the three who lifted the Mavericks out of the dark ages. Yet, he could never replace Nash. Instead, JET surpassed him in our hearts. He made shot after shot, turning the fourth quarter into HIS quarter. He ran the two man game with Dirk to efficient perfection. The lasting image in my head is that of JET rising above LeBron and draining the most cold-blooded three pointer I will ever see. In that moment (and countless others), JET was Pedro Serrano, trotting to first base after hitting a home run.  JET didn’t need that moment to cement his legacy as one of the best Mavericks of all time, but it was surely a punctuation mark or 12.

JET, you will be missed as a Maverick.  And I look forward to the day when you retire and come back to watch your jersey rise into the rafters at the American Airlines Center.

– Jared Tong (@JT_Online)

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III.

ETIC PERSPECTIVE

In 2005, Sports Illustrated asked a number of NBA players to describe exactly how it feels to be on fire. Unsurprisingly, Jason Terry was one of them:

“There’s no feeling like it. When I went for 46 against Dallas [in 2002, with the Hawks], everything was perfect. My shoes were right. My uniform felt flawless. I was in a great rhythm. It’s like a hip-hop song. You’re just there grooving, swaying back and forth. You don’t feel it until you hit your first shot. If that shot is what I call ‘moist,’ it doesn’t take anything. It seems like the net doesn’t even move.”

via Sports Illustrated, “How It Feels… To Be On Fire” (2/21/05)

While the other players in the article focused on different shots they took while in the zone, and their level of consciousness during the phenomenon, Terry focused on how he looked and how he felt. He deconstructed his career game (his 46 points against the Mavericks in 2002 remains his career high) and recontextualized the feeling as a hip-hop song. Because the feeling itself — the feeling of being right, being perfect — is not unique to basketball. That may explain why the some of the most important steps in his pregame preparation have little to do with the game at all.

I sleep in the game shorts of the opposing team the night before a game. I’ve got buddies on almost every team, so I’ve collected all the shorts. I also eat the same thing before every game: a little tortellini with barbecued chicken, a glass of water and a glass of cranberry juice. Got to have it.

via Sports Illustrated, “Jason Terry As Told To Chris Mannix” (5/8/06)

Terry knows what his personal perfection feels like so, naturally, he’s spent his entire career chasing the feeling both on and off the court through ritual. Rituals demand consistency. If art imitates life (or vice-versa), Terry’s strict abidance to his superstitions may well be both the cause and the result of his success. Chasing a high means hoping for some semblance of consistency, and through his stint with the Mavericks, through all the permutations and heartbreaking defeats, he’s stood consistently as one of the team’s best and most important players alongside Dirk Nowitzki.

Perhaps the mysticism behind superstition can explain his rather inexplicable ascendance in fourth quarters regardless of failures in the three quarters before. The science of temperature, momentum, and spontaneous combustion is lost upon a dimwit like me, but I do know that lows and highs balance out. Terry’s rituals are rituals of fire; acts that create an optimal situation for its emergence. It doesn’t determine when the fire will ignite, only that it does. Recreating a perfect moment never turns out as well as you’d hope, but with his history of winning fourth quarters engulfed by his own rhythm, I don’t think Mavericks fans minded much at all.

He’s now moved onto greener pastures in Boston and will fill the void left by Ray Allen, one of the few players whose rituals and compulsions tower over Terry’s own. But his time in Dallas is worth remembering and worth celebrating. The Mavs have reloaded in the wake of his goodbye, but replacing the unique fire Jason Terry brought to the team will be an impossible task.

– Danny Chau (@dannychau; Hardwood Paroxysm)

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AN EXAMINATION OF AN UNDYING IMAGE

A grown man flew on a near nightly basis, and I loved every second of it. He spread his arms horizontally like a jet and sprinted down the court, convinced he was flying above everyone else, soaring beneath his own scoring prowess. He made you believe that even if his legs didn’t quite rise above the ground, few men had ever been closer than him to reaching that air plateau.

My relationship with Jason “The JET” Terry forms an important part of my relationship with basketball itself. Terry joined the Mavericks just as my mind and heart began to join the Mavericks in terms of fandom, and the success that followed his arrival spurred my love of the game with a corresponding passion. Perhaps that love can’t be attributed directly to Terry, whose game I enjoyed but didn’t obsess over, but the dynamic basketball power Terry helped create along with Dirk Nowitzki and players like Josh Howard certainly did. We were intertwined by an era of emergence and a tight-knit team.

Terry’s game, though often lacking in multiple dimensions, excited fans so suddenly and so absurdly that it was hard not to forgive — or even love — his on-court antics. Few players have ever appeared less fazed by the placement of defense than Terry, who has made enough contested pull-up jumpers over the course of his career to make some coaches reconsider their entire basketball philosophy. The choices Terry made didn’t always coincide with the simple or the efficient, but more often not than not, they worked — and in a fashion that never failed to excited the American Airlines Center crowd.

What always captivated me most about Terry was his utterly overwhelming confidence and belief in his own abilities. He has remained fully aware of his own ability to transcend past the unlikely throughout his career, always unbothered by the opposition and willing to take another difficult jumper in the face of improbability. No one could bother Terry except himself, though the occasionally questioning stares of Dirk Nowitzki after some particularly questionable shot selection seemed capable of jolting him. The JET never apologized for how he played, and opposing defenses were forced to respect his apparent belief, supported by years of unchecked success.

Terry symbolizes a classic divide in perception, gauged from both a place of support and a place of loathing. When Mavs fans watched Terry in all of his glory, they likely saw big shots and faux flight. But when an opposing fan sees Terry, all that’s apparent on the surface is an obnoxious penchant for extended gloating.

In reality, apart from the complications in perception, Jason Terry is simply Jason Terry, unrelentingly and compellingly.

It’s not easy to assess the impact Terry’s departure will have on a Mavericks’ team now in flux for its second consecutive year. The largely new collection of talent will miss the defining presence of JET, whose role may not have been easily defined but was always trustingly expected. When Terry entered the game, he brought a determination that can only be equated with the poker player who smilingly pushes all of his chips into the middle of the table, again and again, until victory is achieved. Players like that cannot be duplicated, though the team will attempt to replace his production in more traditional ways.

Perhaps the legacy of Terry’s quiet departure will be the signaling of a much larger transition. Of the key cogs from the mid-to-late 2000s Mavericks, only Dirk Nowitzki now remains, set to last as the team’s greatest, aging star. An entire era fades in the process, but the lasting memories never leave; a successful franchise like the Mavericks must adapt in order to sustain and survive, but the JET doesn’t change. His crucial baskets cannot be unmade, and his triumphs cannot be altered or destroyed. An identity — built from resilience, energy, and self-sustaining joy — remains, even when Jason Terry does not.

– Connor Huchton (@ConnorHuchton; The Two Man Game and Hardwood Paroxysm)

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A SPLICE OF LIFE

Jason Terry joined the Dallas Mavericks in a rather inauspicious manner. As Steve Nash’s replacement, he had to fill the shoes of a beloved star and playmaker — one who also happened to be best friends with Dirk Nowitzki.

For anyone else, this task may have been too burdensome, but not for Terry. He has something inside him –– a drive, a will –– that will not let him succumb to outside pressures. That indelible spirit that Terry possesses is what won the hearts of the fans in Dallas during his eight-year tenure.

Terry gave the Mavericks a sense of style, flash, and grit they rarely saw during their return to relevance beginning in 1999. The headband and the high socks, both staples of his on-court attire, became synonymous with the JET. Who else hyped the American Airlines Center and glided down the sidelines with outstretched arms? Terry involved the fans more than any other player on the team.

That is not to say that it was all smiles during his time in Dallas. No, he was the focus of plenty of consternation. Ill advised threes in transition and costly turnovers set off groans across the Metroplex. The fact is, Terry made those plays because of his unwavering confidence in himself and his game.

This was especially true in the fourth quarter when Terry shot one of the highest percentages in the league. Nowitzki and Terry would work the floor beautifully together in the fourth, running screens and pick-and-rolls for one another to perfection. The two clicked shortly after Terry came to Dallas. Their chemistry was apparent, and Jason Terry became the second heart of the Mavericks.

He was the only player other than Nowitzki to be held over from the team that went to the Finals in 2006 when they returned in 2011. One of the few memories I allow myself to recall from 2006 is Terry taking the last shot in the waning seconds of game six. It was a deep three that rimmed out as my heart sunk and my head fell into my hands.

When he had the Larry O’Brien Trophy tattooed on his bicep before the 2010-11 season, plenty of eyes rolled in Dallas. The Mavericks had been through a series of disappointing playoff appearances; who is he to have the championship trophy tattooed on his body?

It all goes back to his drive. It was one hell of an example of foreshadowing. Behind Terry, and Nowitzki of course, Dallas stormed through the postseason to win its first NBA title. Terry’s barrage from deep against the Lakers was a thing of beauty. Shot after shot kept falling, and JET kept right on shooting because that is simply what he does.

The Mavs got their ring and Terry’s tattoo was vindicated, but now he’s gone. It’s sad, really. He did so much on and off the court in Dallas. His face was on billboards, buses, trains, and storefronts. Whose bright smile will replace his across the city? Other Mavs will grace the aforementioned locations in his place, but none beam with the sincerity of Terry and his smile.

Let his legacy in Dallas be this: a player who dripped with exuberance, suffered with the city during its basketball lows, and because of his commitment to winning, helped Dallas to the pinnacle of the NBA achievement.

He will be missed. Enjoy, Boston. He’s a good one.

– Doyle Rader (@TheKobeBeef; The Kobe Beef)

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NONE NEEDED

I admittedly have a hard time grasping many of the decisions and events that have occurred over the past 12 seasons of Maverick basketball (allowing Nash to walk, inking Dampier to a huge contract because of one good season, wondering what type of HGH the Warriors took before the ’07 playoffs), but reflecting on the one defining moment of Jason Terry? Please. That’s too easy.

But then again, it’s not.

When Bonds and the Giants played on the road, opposing players were universally known to walk up to him beforehand and ask for hitting tips, only to hear, “I can’t help ya”. And you know why he refused to give advice? It wasn’t just because he’s a terrible person (though that’s a huge part of it). He couldn’t help them because he simply didn’t know how to. His skill was taking a lot of steroids was impossible to explain. And that’s exactly what I tell everyone about JETs greatest moment.

How am I possibly expected to sit here and describe the atmosphere inside the AAC during Game 5 of the 2011 NBA Finals? Not even the most accurate description could do justice to the unison of hushes that fell over the crowd once Terry refused to recognize a four-point lead late in the fourth quarter, throwing up the most inexplicable 26 footer in NBA history. Or the thousands of eyes that trailed the ball from his fingertips, all the way to the rim, with 15 seconds still remaining on the shot clock. Or the one-second lapse that felt like an eternity as the ball soared through the air, finally coming back down and swishing through the net. Or the eruption of ringing voices that sounded off from every corner of the arena after the initial shock of his shot selection wore off, leaving every person on their feet.

I can’t possibly tell you what his shot meant to the franchise as the AAC quaked with “LET’S-GO-MAVS!”, drivers honked their horns to match the chants of the exiting public, and train cars filled with “BEAT-THE-HEAT!” cheers.

Sure, you might choose to remember the Finley low-blow, poor shooting performances throughout the most important games of his career, or his timely departure to the Celtics as a final memory. But I’ll always look back to arguably the dumbest and most incredible shot in Mavericks history.

And because of that, there will always be a runway for Terry to land in my heart.

– John Daigle

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Screen Shot 2012-07-31 at 4.38.15 PM

IV.

CLUTCHING BELIEF

Obviously, we all remember Jet’s 28-foot three-pointer over LeBron. We all remember him and Peja raining the fires of Mordor down on the Lakers, in Game 4, and keeping the Mavericks in Game 6 against the Heat until Dirk’s slumbering jumper awoke. But that’s not quite right for me and my memories. If Jet was that player, rather than sometimes that player, the Mavericks would never have let him go — and he’d probably not be beloved in the curious, quirky, conflicted but devoted way that he is.

For me, my defining JET moment is in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, a night that belonged to Dirk Nowitzki and the torn ligament on his hand — for without Dirk, the real Jet is, presumably, what he was for Atlanta and what he will be for Boston. You all remember it. The Heat had the Mavs on the mat. 0-1, looking at 0-2 if they couldn’t come back from a 15 point deficit with less than 6 and a half minutes to go. They’d done it once, against the Thunder, but that was a different team, that wasn’t this defense. That wasn’t LeBron James, and it wasn’t 2006 redux.

The night, as I say, would belong to Dirk, who scored 9 points in the last 3 minutes, including the game-winning layup off his torn hand. But it never would have happened, as so much never would have happened if it wasn’t for Jason Eugene Terry. Because the Mavericks need Dirk, they’re not anything without Dirk. But right then, 15 down,6 to go, looking at an 0-2 hole and remembering the past, they didn’t need incredible talent. They needed somebody who believed and whose belief could never be shaken.

That someone was, and always was, Jason Terry. I remember it like it was yesterday, hopefully I always will. He came out of a time out and he made an 18-footer. Mario Chalmers missed, and Terry hit a driving layup. LeBron missed, and Jet hit two free throws. In one minute — one minute — he pared a 15-point lead down to a nine-point lead. Two minutes later, he hit another jumper to cut the lead down to four.

Terry didn’t erase the lead himself, and he didn’t win the game. In fact, after Dirk hit a three-pointer with 26 seconds left that by all rights should have been the game-winner, it was Terry’s poor defense that gave Chalmers an open three to tie it up, making Dirk win the game again. That was the Jason Terry experience, incandescent brilliance and inexplicable lapses.

But when the Mavs needed someone who didn’t know they’d lost, that someone was Jason Terry, as it so often was. They’ll miss that, I think, much more than they know.

– Andrew Tobolowsky (@andytobo; Mavs Moneyball)

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FILM SESSION

The first time I gazed upon Jason Terry was his first preseason game in Dallas. While the final numbers will definitely squash the hyperbole, in my eyes it felt like Terry went 15-for-15 from the field and made every single three-pointer. Terry’s jumper was just so damn pure. His release, his timing, everything. It also didn’t matter where he was on the floor. Sure, over the years, Terry had personal “hot spots” he liked to trigger his jumper from, but no matter the situation, regardless of distance, Terry’s jumper was just a remarkable thing to watch. Basketball poetry, if I may be so snooty and tacky to use such a phrase.

But perhaps the first time I believed in the JET and all his whimsical power and brash bravado was during his first season with the Mavs, in Sacramento against the then-rival Kings. It was back when playing in the then-named ARCO Arena meant something. I missed the game due to some late-night buffoonery with a long time friend. As we crashed on an upstairs bed, we realized the game was being shown on replay in the wee hours of the morning. We flipped it on just in time to see Terry make a miraculously runner with the foul and tie the game up to send into overtime, where the Mavericks eventually won. I may have not been in a sober state, but that’s when I believed in Jason Terry. No other Dirk sidekick since the Big Three era had the stones to take that crunch-time shot over Nowitzki.

During the 2011 NBA Finals, ABC commentator Jeff Van Gundy remarked on how he could watch videotape for hours with just Dirk Nowitzki shooting. Coincidentally, I can say the same thing myself but toward Jason Terry. If there was ever a DVD compiled of ever jumper, every pull-up, every pick-and-pop, down screen or transition bomb, my life would be just a tiny bit happier.

– Josh Bowe (@Boweman55; Mavs Moneyball)
[Ed. note: Be sure to check out Josh's full ode to the JET over on Mavs Moneyball.]

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THE PEANUT GALLERY

  • http://twitter.com/KirkSeriousFace Kirk Henderson

    Oh JET. We'll miss you. 

  • KG

    I'll never forget Jet punching Michael Finley.  Quality individual!

  • http://None None

    JET reminds me of Steve Buscemi's character on armageddon (or basically any crazy character  in action movies). 
    He needs attention but he lives up to it.
    He's irrational but also a genius.
    He will make you angry, smile and fist pump (all in a single night).
    He's methods and motives might be deranged but more often than not he'll save us all.
    There's many, many things we won't forgive him for, but we will never forget him.

    Thank you, Jason Terry.

  • http://twitter.com/CoL_70 CoL

    JET reminds me of Steve Buscemi's character on armageddon (or basically any crazy character  in action movies). He needs attention but he lives up to it.He's irrational but also a genius.He will make you angry, smile and fist pump (all in a single night).He's methods and motives might be deranged but more often than not he'll save us all.There's many, many things we won't forgive him for, but we will never forget him.
    Thank you, Jason Terry.

  • @OGNastyNique

    Top 5 most Cold Blooded(Ballsy) shots in NBA history: 1) Jordan's Last shot 2) Mario Elie's Kiss of Death 3) Jason Terry's 26 ft over Lebron in game 5 4) Reggie's 8 pts in 8.9 5) Reggies 25pt 4th qtr in the Garden  #HappyJETDay

  • Matt Hulme

    Not to compare Terry's career move to the far more important Challenger disaster, but to mold the famous words of the great Ronald Reagan on that tragic day to apply to JET's time as a Maverick:

    In his lifetime, the great frontiers were the 4th quarters, and analysts later said, “He lived by the 4th quarters, died on it, and was buried in it.” Well, today Mavs' fans, we can say that of Terry. His dedication was complete.

    Jason Eugene Terry honored his uniform by the manner in which he performed each and every night out on the court. We will never forget him, nor the last time we really saw him, arms outstretched on the AAC runway, as he finished his journey and spread his wings and slipped the surly bonds of Dallas to touch more hearts in Boston.

    Goodbye, old friend. And Godspeed out there in the far East.

  • Pingback: Court Vision | The Point Forward

  • http://twitter.com/gnosys I r f a n _ B a i g

    Great article(s), thanks!

  • http://www.californiadrivereducation.us/california-defensive-driving.html Stephen Austin

    Happy Jets Day! Anyway, he'll always be the best player for me. I mean in Maverick team. The best thing about him is that he always keep his head on the game.
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