Dirk Nowitzki: 'An amazing journey'
Dallas Mavericks owner, players savor their moment after long journey to the top
DALLAS -- It took Mark Cuban a minute to find words Thursday as he stood on the stage inside the American Airlines Center, overcome by emotions near the end of a daylong celebration of the Dallas Mavericks' first championship team.
Cuban, cuddling the Larry O'Brien Trophy and his kids, had spent the morning riding through downtown Dallas in a convertible as part of a parade that was originally planned five years ago and was witnessed by hundreds of thousands of people.
Along with Dirk Nowitzki and the rest of the Mavs, Cuban had led a wonderfully off-key rendition of the Queen classic "We Are the Champions" while overlooking the adoring Victory Plaza masses from a second-story balcony.
It all seemed to hit Cuban as he was handed a microphone at the end of a 90-minute post-parade ceremony inside the arena. What other possible explanation could there be for the biggest mouth in sports to be at a loss of words?
Once that moment passed, Cuban told a story about the night before he bought the franchise, when he approached a certain goofy, 7-foot German at a local watering hole.
"I said, 'Let me buy you a beer!'" recalled Cuban, who was well known to the Mavs at the time as the obnoxious fan with courtside seats. "He just looks at me, shakes his head and walks away."
Cuban and Nowitzki have laughed about that exchange for years. It's especially funny now, more than a decade later, with drinks flowing freely to celebrate a long-awaited world title.
Tears didn't necessarily flow Thursday, but Nowitzki did have to pause a couple of times to wipe his eyes during the on-stage festivities.
2011 NBA Finals: Champion Mavericks
Game 1: Heat 92, Mavericks 84
Game 2: Mavericks 95, Heat 93
Game 3: Heat 88, Mavericks 86
Game 4: Mavericks 86, Heat 83
Game 5: Mavericks 112, Heat 103
Game 6: Mavericks 105, Heat 95
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"It's been an amazing ride, an amazing journey," Nowitzki said before thanking the fans. "There's been a lot of ups, a lot of downs. This is the top of the iceberg, and it feels absolutely amazing."
"The top of the iceberg"? Dirk can definitely be forgiven for mixing metaphors in his second language, especially considering the emotions of the moment.
This wasn't just about celebrating a championship that took 31 years for the Mavericks -- and 13 years for Nowitzki -- to achieve. It was about welcoming these Mavericks into the club of Metroplex sports legends, which made it fitting to have a video of three-time Super Bowl champion Emmitt Smith touting the team just before the individual introductions.
"In this city, you never play for second place," coach Rick Carlisle said. "You play to be the best. The city of Dallas holds their champions in very high esteem. These guys have earned every ounce of that respect."
They've earned a measure of immortality. Just ask Jason Terry, whose voice is hoarse from celebrating so hard and talking so much.
The man known as Jet, who loved up the fans by calling them his fuel, looked up at the AAC rafters and imagined where his jersey would hang someday.
"Brad Davis, Rolando Blackman -- move over, boys!" Terry said, referring to the only two Mavericks with their numbers retired. "There's some new jerseys coming to town!"
Nobody forecasts the future like Terry, the sixth man who got a Larry O'Brien Trophy tattoo all the way back in October.
But he wasn't the only Mavericks player who spiced up the celebration by looking ahead. Jason Kidd, who took 17 years to win his first title, said the Mavs need to get another one now. Tyson Chandler, a free agent who sure sounds as if he plans to return to Dallas, playfully poked at the Miami Heat by mentioning that the Mavs want "two, three, four, five" of these parades.
"Guess what, we got one!" Cuban said. "And we're going to keep trying to get more!"
Cuban wrapped it up by asking the crowd whether it remembered what he said at the Western Conference trophy presentation.
The fans' replies spoke for Cuban: "We ain't done yet!"
The party is just getting started. It might be five years later than expected, but it's just as fulfilling for the newest legends on the local sports landscape.
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.