Fans love it when their teams are champions. But fan support alone won’t take a mediocre team to championship level. Heart is what a team needs. The heart is what will bring glory to even the average team.

John Elway had a heart. There was never any doubt about that, as he gave it his all to reach the Super Bowl an incredible 5 times. In the ’80s no one said the Broncos had a great all-round team, but they had a good team plus a leader in Heart.

On the other hand, the Dallas Mavericks won 67 games in 2007, an incredible winning percentage of over 80 percent. He was the sixth best of all time in the NBA. But what did they do with it? They lost easily in the first round of the playoffs to the eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors. The first time a top seed has lost in the NBA to the worst seed since the first round went to seven games.

Remember when they extended the first round from 5 to 7 games? One of the reasons was to help ensure that the favored team would win the series even if they had a bad night.

Dallas, however, was never competitive. This wasn’t even 7 games. It was barely 6 games only because of a miraculous comeback in the last minutes of the 5th game.

It was clear that Golden State had a heart and they put their effort into it.

Champions rise to the occasion. That’s what they play for. It’s not the regular season where cheap wins come easy over humble teams. It’s not the regular season where a game is just a game and sometimes the emotional game is missing.

No, players with hearts do their best in the 4th quarter. They make shots in the playoffs. They are leaders who make the players around them better because they play hard and set a high bar and set a great example.

Michael Jordan. Larry Bird. Magic Johnson. All great basketball players, but their greatness and lasting legacy were not the result of regular season victories. Memories of their play come from the playoffs, when they took on the mantle of greatness and showed what it means to play hard and play well. Even when they didn’t win, they had nothing to be ashamed of. They didn’t wither and lost game after game by dozens of points. They came to play and they wanted the ball.

Teams like the 2007 Dallas Mavericks may have good players, but they’re flashes and soon forgotten no matter how many regular-season wins they rack up. Does anyone remember the 2001 Seattle Mariners who won a record 116 games? No. Because they couldn’t finish and soon reverted to mediocrity.

Dallas needs a player with a heart. Not just average desire, but a talent with a burning desire to win at all costs that transcends regular season play. Until that does not happen there will be no championship.

Other teams take note. Heart can be more important than flashy stats in getting a team to a championship level. What finally brought perennial glory to the Philadelphia Phillies? An aged Pete Rose. Not because he was hitting 60 home runs, but because he had the heart of a champion, and that intangible factor brought out the best in his teammates.

So all you fans out there, support your favorite team and be sure to root for those with a heart. Keeping those players is what will ultimately bring you a championship.

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