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Dallas Mavericks, professional basketball team and one of seven teams in the Midwest Division of the Western Conference of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The Mavericks play in American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, and wear jerseys of blue, white, and green. The team’s name derives from Texas’s history of cattle ranching. Samuel Augustus Maverick was an 19th-century Texas cattle owner, and the word maverick has come to refer to a person who holds independent views or refuses to conform to the accepted thinking on a subject.


Professional basketball arrived in Dallas in 1980 when the NBA granted an expansion team franchise to real estate developer Donald J. Carter. The Mavericks began NBA play in the 1980-81 season. After a dismal debut season, typical for an expansion club, the Mavericks’ administration soon built a competitive team. The Mavericks’ draft picks in their first seven years yielded talented players such as guards Rolando Blackman and Derek Harper; forwards Mark Aguirre, Detlef Schrempf, and Roy Tarpley; and center Sam Perkins.

Dallas registered its first winning season in 1983-84, its fourth season, when the team posted a 43-39 win-loss record and made its first trip to the playoffs. Solid scoring from Aguirre and Blackman helped the Mavericks defeat the Seattle SuperSonics and advance to the conference semifinals before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers. During the next two years the club posted winning records, and in the 1985-86 season Dallas beat the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs before again falling to the Lakers in the conference semifinals.

With a lineup of Aguirre, Blackman, Harper, Perkins, and center James Donaldson, the Mavericks won 55 games during the 1986-87 season to finish first in the Midwest Division. Aguirre and Blackman again led the team in scoring. Dallas was upset in the first round of the playoffs by the Seattle SuperSonics. The next year Schrempf and Tarpley contributed solid rebounding to the team and the Mavericks bested the Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets in the first two rounds of the playoffs to earn a place against the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. The series lasted seven games with outstanding play from Donaldson, Harper, and Tarpley, but Dallas came up short in the deciding contest.

The Mavericks successful starting lineup was disbanded during the 1988-89 season. Donaldson missed most of the season due to injury, the NBA suspended Tarpley for violating the league’s antidrug policy, and the Mavericks traded Aguirre and Schrempf. The team missed the playoffs in the 1988-89 season and two years later slipped to the bottom of the league. The Mavericks won only 22 games in 1991-92 and in each of the next two seasons they threatened to break the NBA’s all-time record for fewest victories, winning only 11 games in 1992-93 and 13 in 1993-94. (The record low of 9 wins was set by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1972-73 season).

Last-place finishes gave the Mavericks the opportunity to draft three of the nation’s best college players: guard Jim Jackson in 1992, forward Jamal Mashburn in 1993, and guard Jason Kidd in 1994. But injuries slowed both Jackson and Mashburn, and at times the team found it difficult to mold the three explosive players into an effective unit. In the late 1990s Mavericks general manager Don Nelson attempted to rebuild the team with a series of deals, including the trades of Jackson, Mashburn, and Kidd. One deal, a nine-player transaction with the New Jersey Nets, was the largest in NBA history.