There are some actors who have raw talent, the ability to inhabit other people, to summon keen emotional choices that convey a character’s interior life. Then there are those who are popular within the business because they make the people selecting the actors feel good about themselves. We like people through whose lens we see the best reflection of ourselves. Some simply have that skill: they give us the impression that we are communicating precisely what we want and that the image we present is ourselves at our best. Fitzgerald ascribed that ability to Gatsby, and occasionally in life you will run across this type of person. The Mavericks have such an actor, and his attitude seems to influence their entire team, the classiest, best mannered in the league.

The Mavericks were tied for the best record in the NBAE, and there was no animosity as we took the court, just respect and a desire to win. Their squad is athletic, focused, and knows how to defend. They have a former league MVP who currently acts in a one-hour drama set in Sin City, their center played college basketball, and the rest of their starters can all ball. Their outside shooter, an actor, dates Fergie, one-fourth of the multiethnic group the Black Eyed Peas and singer of possibly one of the most distressing verses in modern songdom.

Let me quote from “My Humps”:

What you gon’ do with all that junk?
All that junk inside your trunk?
I’ma get, get, get, get you drunk,
Get you love drunk off my hump.
My hump, my hump, my hump, my hump, my hump,
My hump, my hump, my hump, my lovely lady lumps.

Their music and production is infectious enough that, typically, a listener will excuse their spectacularly inappropriate lyrics. Fergie has been known to attend her boyfriend’s games and cheer.

Now, I must interject for a moment: After quoting a teammate opining about breasts and basketballs and their respective attractiveness, I was sent to the doghouse when the teammate’s girlfriend read the dispatch and was, understandably, offended, immediately deducing that her man had made the remark. She is truly one of the sweetest, most attractive people I know, so naturally I felt bad that what has become known on the team as “boobgate” caused such strife. I thought it best to avoid the topic of breasts entirely for the remainder of the dispatches, but the Maverick’s starting forward is romantically entangled with a Pea and her lyrics to “My Humps” are out there in the world.

They were without one of their starters, but a talent-manager friend of mine who is their usual sixth man stepped into the absentee’s shoes nicely—he knows the game and never tries to do too much, always playing effectively and within himself.

As we exchanged pounds before the opening tip, I could sense that our team was a little tight. It was late in the season, the Mavericks were very good, and we wanted to come out and get a victory to send a message to the rest of the league that we are a force to be reckoned with.

The game was extremely close from the jump. The Mavericks got out to a small baby lead in the first half, but we quickly caught up and then surpassed them, though they always stayed within 4 to 6 points. They displayed quickness and disrupted our team’s offensive flow, and their center’s help defense made it difficult to penetrate. English wasn’t his usual self and I sensed he wasn’t entirely comfortable on the court. He never found a rhythm and ended up with 6 points, his lowest total of the season.

Our passing and ball movement was bad. Still, the Silver Fox was hitting jumpers with consistency, and Coach’s Son was firing madly, exploiting his quick release, bombing from beyond 3. He missed some but then got on a mini-streak and knocked down three in a row. The game seesawed and we were tied deep into the second half. I was guarding their center, who outweighed me by 30 pounds and, more importantly, was a dirty, filthy, dirty dirty player in that savvy veteran way. I had indentations on my back from his two-handed shoves underneath the bucket. Twice in a row he pushed me as I jumped for a rebound. I was sent flying; he scooped up the board, shot a little bunny, and scored. I was infuriated and yelled at the ref to call a foul. He refused. He did, however, call a technical on me, and a lead actor in a whimsical medical comedy strode to the foul line to shoot. He blew both free throws. The Mavericks then got the ball, so it functioned as a turnover, since we had possession when I was penalized.

Moments later, Bigs thought he was called for a travel and he slammed the ball to the ground, bouncing it up near the rafters. The referees had no choice but to “T” him up as well. We were beginning to lose our cool.

After a technical foul, you are required to sit out for a few minutes, which I did. In a previous game, a comedian was called for two technicals and kept snapping on an opponent, even stooping so low as to bring the player’s mother into the equation. The timing was poor, as the player’s mother had recently passed and a near-scuffle ensued. The commissioner thought the joking contained a mean edge. The comedian was ejected from the game. He then hid in a corner of the stands, hoping to avoid notice. Security was able to find him, and the following day he e-mailed the commissioner, suggesting he would accept a one-game suspension and then return in time for the playoffs.

He was sent packing until next year.

So, two minutes left and we were up 4 points. Their top scorer got the ball and raced down the court, only to be stymied by English, whose defense is superb. We came down and milked the clock. After a series of fouls and free throws, and with the clock winding down to its last seconds, we breathed a collective sigh of relief. We knew we hadn’t brought our A game, and there was a sense of frustration brewing among some members of the team because of the lack of equity in ball distribution and shot taking. It was hard not to enjoy the big win, yet it didn’t feel that satisfying, because we’d reverted to early-season form: the ball stagnated in a couple guys’ hands and there wasn’t balance. The Captain was very frustrated. He scored 3 points, as did I, and felt that he didn’t get enough touches, which is true. Still, our victory put us in a great position for the final game. If we win and the Knicks lose, then we’ll finish in second place in the entire league and play a lower-ranked opponent to start the playoffs.