DALLAS (AP)—The face of the Dallas Mavericks laughed, sang and even seemed
to tear up.
For Dirk Nowitzki(notes), the only thing that could come close to being an NBA
champion for the first time was celebrating it with the fans in his adopted
hometown of Dallas.
An estimated crowd of 200,000 crammed downtown Thursday morning for a parade
in the team’s honor, with another 20,000 or so filling the arena for a rally
filled with emotional moments.
After waiting 31 years for the franchise to be atop the NBA, fans honored
the feat in a way that many said was worth the wait. Dallas wrapped up the title
in Miami on Sunday night so, other than their airport arrival, this was the
first chance for fans to show their appreciation in person. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban carries the Larry O'Brien Trophy to the stage during the victory celebration on Thursday.
They were peaceful, too, unlike the scene in Vancouver following the end of
the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday night, and the commotion during a Cowboys
championship parade in 1993.
Dallas police said the biggest problem was a fight that resulted in three
arrests. There also were 145 minor medical treatments, mostly because of heat
that approached 90 degrees. Nine people were taken to hospitals for heat
Nowitzki was the unquestioned star of the show, drawing the loudest cheers
from start to finish—usually chants of “M! V! P!” There were German flags in
the crowd, a sign calling him “Der Kaiser” and cut-out letters that spelled
“Thank you Dirk.”
After the parade and before the rally, Nowitzki and his teammates went to
the balcony of the arena and spoke briefly to the crowd. Nowitzki capped it by
leading a rousing rendition of their new favorite song, “We Are The
More singing came during the rally, when team owner Mark Cuban serenaded
Nowitzki with “Happy Birthday”; he turns 33 on Sunday. Nowitzki got into it,
too, pretending to conduct.
But this day had two other emotional crescendos for Nowitzki.
The first came when coach Rick Carlisle said, “You’re looking at the best
basketball team on the planet. It’s also very clear we have in our presence the
greatest basketball player on the planet.” The overhead jumbo board showed a
close-up shot of Nowitzki wiping his eyes.
When it was Nowitzki’s turn to speak, his teammates and Cuban were among
those standing and chanting “MVP.” Nowitzki bit his bottom lip and looked
down. He was too overcome with emotion to answer the first question from
co-emcee Chuck Cooperstein.
“It’s been an amazing ride, an amazing journey,” Nowitzki said. “It’s
been a lot of ups and a lot of downs. This is the top of the iceberg. It feels
He relived his journey from a 19-year-old draftee with a bowl cut and a bad
earring—“just a bad look,” he said with a smile—to the greatest player in
team history, a former league MVP and the newly minted finals MVP.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” he said of his early days in
Dallas. “It’s been an amazing ride and you guys have been with me every step of
the way. This is for our fans!”
Another highly charged moment came when it was Cuban’s turn to speak.
He couldn’t. Jason Terry shows off his NBA trophy tattoo on Thursday.
The rambunctious billionaire determined to do things his way seemed awed by
the moment, surely thinking about his own journey from a fan who used to buy
scalped tickets to buying the club in January 2000.
When Cooperstein joked about this being “a long way from Reunion Arena,”
Cuban just shook his head, lips pinched.
In came Carlisle to the rescue.
He grabbed the microphone and discussed something he said to the players a
few days before, about the difference between success and fulfillment.
“Mark has had obvious success,” Carlisle said. “The thing you have to
understand is, to him, it doesn’t matter the cost, it’s to be able to bring this
moment to you. So, thanks.”
They hugged as fans stood and cheered. There were chants of “Thank you
Mark,” and Cuban wiped his eyes several times. Once he felt composed, the guy
who loves being the center of attention motioned for quiet.
He had a story to tell.
“The day I bought the team, but it had not yet been announced, I went out
with some friends to have an adult beverage,” Cuban said. “I go into this bar
and I see this tall, German, goofy-looking guy—with his bowl cut, earring—
and I know I’m going to be his boss the very next day. He has no idea.
“So I walk up to him and say, ‘Yo. Let me buy you a beer.’ He just looks at
me, shakes his head and walks away.
“The next day, we’re at (the practice facility). I’m supposed to get
introduced to the team. I walk in the door and I walk up and I just look at him
and he just shakes his head. That’s pretty much been our relationship for 13
The video board cut to Nowitzki several times during the anecdote and he
couldn’t stop smiling and laughing.
There were all sorts of funny moments during the rally.
Brian Cardinal, a backup nicknamed “The Custodian,” came on the stage with
a broom and dustpan. With a stogie in his mouth, he tidied up a bit, then waved
his arms to loud applause. He cupped a hand to his ears, asking for them to be
louder, then went back into the tunnel.
Jason Kidd was the first player to speak and he talked about it being “a
dream came true when I was drafted by the Mavericks in 1994.”
“I just didn’t know it was going to take 17 years to win a championship,”
he said. “We’ve got one championship, now we need to go and get another
Tyson Chandler upped expectations.
“I hear they do things big in Dallas,” he said. “So if we do it big, it
can’t be just one.” He held up a hand and started flipping up fingers and
counting, “One, two, three, four, five.”
Jason Terry wore dark glasses and a Mardi Gras-style blue necklace. He did
his traditional flying airplane motion to wild cheers, then flexed his right
biceps to show off the tattoo of the trophy he added in October and vowed to
scrub if they didn’t win it all.
Terry and Nowitzki are the only holdovers from the Mavericks’ only other
finals team—in 2006, when they blew a 2-0 lead against Miami. So this title is
especially sweet for them.
“Not only the way we did it, who we did it against,” Terry said before the
rally. “We’ll never forget it. We’ll never forget ’05-06 and we sure as heck
won’t forget 2011.”
Fans filled the downtown streets starting early Thursday. The plaza around
the arena was filled to its 3,000-person capacity about two hours before the
parade even began.
Franchise founder Donald Carter and his wife, Linda, for whom he started the
club as gift, were in the lead vehicle, a white convertible.
“Fantastic,” Carter said.
At the end of the parade, those who rode along said they were overwhelmed by
the turnout—people as far as they could see.
“I’m numb,” said Donnie Nelson, the team’s president of basketball