DALLAS (AP) –The Dallas Mavericks returned home in triumph on Monday, cheered by hundreds of fans celebrating the franchise’s first NBA title and the first professional championship of any kind in the area in more than a decade.
Owner Mark Cuban walked off the plane at Love Field carrying the championship trophy he was handed after Sunday’s Game 6 win over the Miami Heat.
Next came forward Dirk Nowitzki with hardware of his own: The NBA finals MVP trophy that was awarded after he overcame a finger injury, illness and smothering defense from the Heat to power fourth-quarter comeback wins.
Cuban, the Dallas billionaire who bought the team in 2000, had the championship trophy in a seat next to him on the plane and he apparently kept it close throughout the Sunday night celebration.
“This will sound weird,” he wrote on Twitter. “I’m laying in bed. With the trophy next (to) me.”
The championship, the first in the 31-year history of the Mavericks, represents a breakthrough. The franchise was once one of the worst in the NBA and, even after Cuban’s infusion of cash and energy, had a reputation of failing to win big games — including a loss to Miami in the 2006 Finals after leading the series 2-0.
The title is city’s first since the Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999 and it comes four months after the Super Bowl in suburban Arlington included not the hometown Cowboys but Green Bay and Pittsburgh along with a spate of bad weather. The Texas Rangers advanced to the last World Series, but lost to San Francisco.
As the Mavericks wore down the Heat, fans crowded into downtown Dallas on Sunday night to celebrate. Police reported 14 arrests, including six for public intoxication, four for disorderly conduct and four people taken into custody on outstanding warrants.
By Monday, attention had turned to the homecoming.
The team charter passed under a water cannon salute after it landed. Cuban, a cigar in his mouth, walked off first, followed by Nowitzki, both holding the trophies high. They then went across the runway to a security fence, touching off a celebration that lasted about 30 minutes and allowing fans who spent hours waiting in 90-degree heat to get a taste of the title.
Cuban eventually handed off the championship trophy to members of the team, who walked along the fence as fans held cell phones high to take photos. As Nowitzki was driven away, he held the MVP trophy aloft through the sun roof of his sport utility vehicle.
Details have not been announced on a celebration parade other than to confirm it will be held Thursday. Cuban repeated Monday that he will personally pay for the event.
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