Los Angeles: The National Basketball Association season started with "The Decision" and ended with vindication.
The Los Angeles Lakers were chasing history by pursuing another title and the Miami Heat were partying on South Beach even before the season started, but it was the Dallas Mavericks who came in and stole the show in 2010-11.
Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks overcame years of playoff failures to capture their first ever NBA championship by upsetting the Heat in six games.
The Heat had a constellation of stars surrounded by unprecedented hype but the Mavericks team of 30-somethings led by Germany's Nowitzki got their revenge in the NBA finals.
"He made us raise our game to another level. That's when you have a superstar," said Mavericks Jason Terry of the 32-year-old Nowitzki.
In 2006, the same teams met in the NBA finals with the Heat coming out on top. Nowitzki came under heavy criticism after the Mavericks blew a 2-0 series lead and lost in six games.
This time, Nowitzki had to convince his teammates things would be different. He did this by engineering one of the gutsiest performances in NBA finals history.
The Heat cruised to an eight point win in game one but Dallas rallied to win game two by just two points as Nowitzki led the Mavericks to victory with a torn tendon in his left hand.
Dallas lost game three at home but rebounded to beat the Heat in game four with Nowitzki, still playing with a bandaged left hand, leading the way with 21 points despite fighting a 38 degree Celsius (101F) fever.
Nowitzki scored 29 points in a game five victory, then combined with Terry to score 48 points in the clincher as Dallas earned their first NBA championhip with a 105-95 victory.
"Tonight we got vindication," said Terry.
Miami's season was a roller-coaster ride from the beginning. James' controversial one-hour special on American sports cable network ESPN, called "The Decision", rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, making the Heat one of the most scrutinized and reviled teams in history.
The parade down South Beach had started and the Heat hadn't even won a game.
After bringing in free agents James and Chris Bosh to play alongside Dwyane Wade and form a trio of superstars, they started the season with just nine wins and eight losses.
Many anointed them NBA champs before the season began and when the Heat later won 21 of 22 it looked like the mighty juggernaut was steaming right along.
While they made the playoffs look easy they also caught a couple of breaks. Chicago Bulls Derrick Rose looked like anything but the league MVP in the semi-finals and Miami caught another break in the quarter-finals when Celtics Rajon Rondo dislocated his elbow in game three.
Dallas also ended the storied coaching career of Phil Jackson by sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in four straight in the quarter-finals.
"I don't think I have seen a team play at that level," Jackson said after the Mavs beat his Lakers by 36 points in the final game.
The two-time defending champs had their core of players like Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and Paul Gasol but the Lakers slipped out of top spot in the conference for the first time in four years.
Bryant won the MVP of the all-star game but hardly anyone remembers. The most enduring moment of the contest was Clippers' rising star and league rookie of the year Blake Griffin leaping over a car to jam the ball home during the slam-dunk competition.
Like the underdog Mavericks, the Oklahoma City Thunder exceeded expectations and now look poised to join the NBA's elite.
In the end, Nowitzki was the one who exorcised his playoff demons, leaving James and the Heat out in the cold and wondering what went wrong with their dream season.