DALLAS – With a tug from Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and others, the Dallas Mavericks unveiled their championship banner minutes before opening this season against the team they knocked off in the NBA finals — LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
The ceremony was supposed to have been held Nov. 1, but the lockout pushed it back. So after waiting until their 31st season to become champions for the first time, the Mavericks and their fans waited another 54 days.
"Thirty-one years you waited — 31 years! — to call your team a champion, ladies and gentlemen," Terry said. "A champion!"
The Heat were in their locker room while clips of last year's postseason were shown, followed by brief comments from NBA Commissioner David Stern, Mavs owner Mark Cuban, coach Rick Carlisle, Terry and Nowitzki.
Nowitzki rocked nervously foot to foot at the start of the ceremony, while Cuban smiled and bit his lip, hands jammed in the pockets of his jeans. Once Cuban received the trophy, he held it above his head and turned slowly for everyone to see. He thanked fans and behind-the-scenes members of the organization, then handed the microphone to Carlisle. He started by naming the two coaches and six players no longer with the team.
"All of these guys will forever be part of Mavs history and the Mavs' family," Carlisle said.
Carlisle then introduced the returning players, all wearing their new warmup outfits featuring the words "2011 NBA Champions" and the trophy logo on the back. Cheers built with each introduction, capped by roars of "M! V! P!" for Nowitzki.
"This is a special, special day for all of us," Nowitzki said.
Franchise founders Don and Linda Carter watched from their usual courtside seats. With straps for everyone to yank, a dark curtain was peeled away, showing off the banner. It features a huge trophy, the team's logo and has the last name of each player printed around the border. The signatures of Cuban and Carlisle are in the two bottom corners.
Before the ceremony, Carlisle said he wanted it to end quickly so the game could begin, and Cuban it would mean more to fans. Judging by the looks on their faces, they were either downplaying their emotions or enjoyed it more than they expected. Carlisle's daughter went on the court with him, and Cuban was later joined by two of his kids.
Nowitzki and Kidd certainly seemed awed as they watched the banner rise to the rafters. They couldn't take their eyes off it — or just didn't want to. It hangs directly over the free throw line on the end of the court in front of the Mavs' bench.
The Mavericks will have one more chance to savor their title — they get their rings later this season. The lockout messed up the timing of that, too, because Cuban wanted to let Nowitzki, Kidd, Terry and Marion help with the design and he wasn't allowed to talk to them while the season was on hold.