No role too small for ex-Rebel Marion

Shawn Marion has been an All-Star four times in his NBA career. But the former UNLV standout was more of a role player during the Dallas Mavericks’ run to the championship.

Dirk Nowitzki was the Most Valuable Player of the NBA Finals, and Jason Terry scored a game-high 27 points Sunday in the Mavericks’ 105-95 title-clinching victory over the Miami Heat.

If Nowitzki was Paul Newman and Terry was Robert Redford, Marion would be playing the role of Strother Martin or another of the supporting actors who helped turn “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” into a classic.

Marion had 12 points and eight rebounds in Game 6, and his defensive work on Heat stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade was a key factor throughout the series.

“Shawn is so talented and versatile and yet is really humble and focused on being a great teammate,” said UNLV coach Dave Rice, an assistant during Marion’s one season with the Rebels in 1998-99.

Nowitzki, Terry, Marion and veteran point guard Jason Kidd became first-time title winners as the underdog Mavericks upstaged James.

“It is such a great lesson for our program to see the positive result of the Mavs’ commitment to team and the effect of the leadership and perseverance of the Mavs’ vets,” Rice said.

Before the series, Rice picked Dallas to win. But he also admitted to being biased. The Mavericks always have been Rice’s favorite NBA team, and they had more than one UNLV connection this season.

■ QUIET CONTRIBUTOR — As soon as the game ended, Nowitzki quickly headed for the locker room to hide his emotions. Tim Grgurich was courtside by the tunnel to greet him.

Grgurich, a Dallas assistant, was a UNLV assistant coach from 1981 to 1992 and the head coach for seven games of the 1994-95 season. Rice was a reserve on the Rebels’ 1990 NCAA championship team.

“No surprise to the positive effect Coach Grgurich has had on the Mavs,” said Rice, who plans to welcome back Grgurich to several UNLV practices in the fall.

■ LONG TIME COMING — Marion became the first former UNLV player to win an NBA title since 1972, when John Q. Trapp (1967-68) was part of a championship team with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Jackie Robinson (1973-78) won a ring with the 1979 Seattle SuperSonics after playing 12 regular-season games, and J.R. Rider (1991-93) earned one with the 2001 Lakers after playing in 67 regular-season games. But neither Robinson nor Rider were on their teams’ postseason rosters.

The Rebels were guaranteed to have bragging rights to an NBA champion. Joel Anthony, Miami’s starting center, was a member of the UNLV team that reached the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 in 2007.

■ LADIES’ MAN — According to TMZ, Marion is set to film a pilot for a reality show titled, “The Ladies of My Life.” It won’t be trash TV featuring a player and the groupies he scores with on the road.

Marion’s show is about the important women in his life — his mom, three sisters and publicist.

“Shawn was genuinely such a nice person, which was a reflection of how his mother, Elaine, raised him,” Rice said.


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