In just their second year of existence, the Dallas Mavericks struck pay dirt when they selected number one overall in the 1981 NBA Draft. Big D chose a player out of the Windy City who could score on par with NBA’s best during the 1980s.
Although he was the NBA’s top draft pick, Mark Aguirre spent his rookie season as a reserve on the Mavericks. Still, in just 29 minutes of action the small forward maintained a 19 PPG average. The next season, Mavs coach Dick Motta fully unleashed Aguirre and from that 1983 season through 1988, he averaged 25.5 points a night on 50% shooting from the field.
His ways of scoring were rather typical for the legion of high-octane small forwards in the ’80s. Like Bernard King and Alex English, Aguirre possessed a soft mid-range jumper. And much like King, he also had significant power behind his moves despite being a “small” forward. He was a burly 235 lbs and could comfortably ricochet off defenders on his drives to the basket.
On these attacks, Aguirre had the uncanny ability to manipulate the basketball solely with his right hand. It was somewhat like Connie Hawkins, but a little more earth-bound and a lot less elegant, but it was still effective. He could dunk the ball ferociously with the maneuver. Or simply avoid the defenders and flip up unexpected, agile one-handers. Or he could dump off the perfect pass to a teammate hanging along the baseline by the basket. There’s a reason why this offensive juggernaut averaged four assists a night during his 1983 to 1988 prime.
As Aguirre was rumbling along to star status in the NBA, the Dallas Mavericks were a team on the rise all that same while. Dallas ran deep and by 1988 featured Rolando Blackman, Derek Harper, Brad Davis, Sam Perkins, Detlef Scrempf, Roy Tarpley, and James Donaldson. The club steadily improved from 28 wins in Aguirre’s 1982 rookie season to 53 victories in 1988.
This run of Mavericks success jump-started in 1984. Aguirre finished second in the NBA in scoring with 29.5 PPG, the Mavericks ran off 43 wins and clinched the first playoff appearance in franchise history. In the first round of the playoffs, the upstart Mavericks upset the veteran Seattle SuperSonics in five games including a one-point OT victory in the deciding Game 5. Aguirre and his All-Star running mate Rolando Blackman combined for 54 points in the 105-104 victory. Unfortunately for the Mavericks their next opponent would be the Los Angeles Lakers, who proved that season and the following ones to be too powerful for the Mavs.
Aguirre and Dallas, however, chipped closer and closer to the Lakers. They lost the 1984 Western Conference Semi-Finals to the Lakers 4-games-to-1. In 1986, the Lakers best them 4-games-to-2. Finally, in 1988, the Lakers eked out a seven-game series victory over Dallas in the Western Conference Finals.
That 1988 postseason run was Aguirre’s finest time as a Maverick. He lit up the Houston Rockets in the decisive Game 4 of their opening 1st round series. The small forward nailed 38 points for the entire game (in just 33 minutes of action), and went insane in the 3rd quarter scoring 27 points. The effort propelled Dallas to the 2nd Round where they knocked off Denver. In the aforementioned Western Conference Finals against the Lakers, Aguirre averaged 24 points a game on 50% shooting, but that series marked the demise of the Mavericks.
Midway through the 1988-89 season, Aguirre was traded to the Detroit Pistons. In the Motor City, Mark would no longer be a featured option, but one offensive source amongst many. And he’d play as a reserve for the first time since his rookie season. During his 4.5-year tenure with Detroit, Aguirre averaged a modest 13 PPG. The move nonetheless resulted in Mark receiving two NBA championships as a member of the Pistons in 1989 and 1990.
His greatest individual work, though, was with the Mavericks. His output of 24.6 PPG remains the highest in Mavericks’ history. That fine offensive skill gave North Texas its first taste of success with professional basketball.
Years Played: 1981 – 1994
2x Champion (1989-’90)
3x All-Star (1984, 1987-’88)
NBA – 923 Games
20.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.1 APG
48.4% FG, 74.1% FT