By Brian Taylor
With the Dallas Mavericks on their current tear as one of the NBA’s best squads year in and year out, people tend to forget the pre-Cuban days. Of course, folks remember the 11-71 seasons, the Jim Jackson/Jason Kidd/Jamal Mashburn/Toni Braxton experience and the bleakness at Reunion Arena. What a lot of people forget, is how for a while, the Mavericks were the Showtime Lakers’ chief competition out West. Guys like Derek Harper, Brad Davis and Mark Aguirre gave the Lakers a few scares on their playoff runs. One guy was the embodiment of those Dallas teams, and that was Rolando Antonio Blackman.
“Ro” was a product of Brooklyn, New York, where he was balling until getting recruited by Kansas State. At KSU, Ro owned the “Big 8”, garnering tons of awards and records in the early 1980’s. In 1981, with a new expansion team in Dallas, Blackman was scooped up with the ninth pick in that year’s draft which included Isiah Thomas, Buck Williams, Tom Chambers and Ben Stiller look-alike, Kelly Tripucka.
In Big “D”, Blackman did some big things.
For starters, he earned the starting nod as a rookie, teaming up with Mark Aguirre and Brad Davis to take the Mavs to a second year expansion like 28 wins. The team was bad, but every year they got better via draft, getting notable names like Sam Perkins, Detlef Schrempf and Derek Harper. In the 1988 playoffs, the upstart Mavericks rode Blackman’s hot shooting all the way to a seve game series that ended with Magic and company winning at the Forum.
In his time in Texas, Rolando earned 4 All-Star appearances, and was the face of the Dallas Mavericks, even in the lean years. The 1987 All-Star game in Seattle, the West was down 2, with no time left on the clock. Ro had drawn a foul and had two shots, two lonely free throws (the lane was empty) and everyone else in the cavernous Kingdome. In a display of confidence that would’ve saved Nick Anderson’s career, Blackman stepped to the line and got both shots, uttering his famous “Confidence baby, confidence” line.
1992 was a year of change, as Blackman was sent to New York for the Knicks’ draft pick that year (Hubert Davis). With Pat Riley at the helm, Blackman underwent a revitalization in the twilight of his career. With the Knicks, he came off the bench in a crucial sixth man role, and in 1994, he finally got his shot at the NBA Finals. In the game seven where John Starks shot his team out of the title, Houston prevailed and years later, Pat Riley remarked that his greatest coaching error ever, was not putting Blackman into that game to spell Starks.
Currently, Blackman and Brad Davis are the only Mavs to have their numbers retired (they’ll have to make room for #41 some day for sure), and Ro’ took the player development position with the current Dallas Mavericks. He also does work as a Director with Dallas’ Youth Assist Foundation, so check this link to see how he helps kids from the Metropolex.