DALLAS (AP/105.3 The Fan) — Coach Rick Carlisle draped his arm around Tony Romo as the crowd roared in the final minutes of the Dallas Mavericks’ honorary game for the retiring Cowboys quarterback.
Fans desperately wanted to see the career passing leader for the storied Cowboys franchise get in for at least a few seconds in a meaningless 109-91 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night, and he was acting like he might actually play.
Romo was honored exactly a week after announcing he was leaving football to become the No. 1 NFL analyst at CBS.
The soon-to-be-37-year-old had the crowd on its feet in the final minute hoping he could play, but Romo wasn’t on the roster or under contract.
After breaking a bone in his back last preseason, the career passing leader for the storied Cowboys franchise lost the starting job he held for 10 years to rookie Dak Prescott and decided not to play for another team.
The Mavericks let Romo go through shootaround and pregame warmups before introducing him with the starters. The packed American Airlines Center greeted the former Cowboys quarterback to a rousing standing ovation.
Coach Carlisle then called Nowitzki out to the floor and the superstar heaped praise upon Romo for everything he’s done for the city of Dallas.
“We’re here to celebrate and honor my good friend Tony Romo. Thanks for everything you’ve done for Dallas, and you’ve represented us great, bro. I’m proud of you.”
Romo then took the microphone and delivered a short speech to the crowd and ended it by saying “thank you, Dallas. I love you.”
Although fans clamored for Romo to enter the game, it was reveled later on that Cuban had discussed with Commissioner Adam Silver the possibility of him actually playing. Instead, Dallas ended up filling an available roster spot by claiming DeAndre Liggins on waivers from Cleveland.
“I told him what I was going to do and said, ‘Fine me if you don’t like it,'” Cuban said of his conversation with Silver. “But once he said the contract wasn’t getting approved, then he kind of killed that.”
“Obviously we knew we couldn’t check him in,” said Nowitzki, who helped hatch the plan to honor Romo. “We were faking it and the crowd was loving it. And they wanted to see him out there so bad. We just couldn’t pull it off.”
At least a dozen of his former teammates attended, including Ezekiel Elliott, the standout rookie running back who never got to play with Romo because of the 14-year veteran’s injury. The NFL rushing leader for the NFC East champs was there in Romo’s No. 9 football jersey. So were plenty of fans.
Longtime friend and tight end Jason Witten had a seat in the first half behind the Dallas bench near Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and Romo’s last offensive coordinator in Dallas, Scott Linehan.
Romo said it was a “no-brainer” to accept the offer of a tribute from Nowitzki, who discussed the idea with Cuban at the party to celebrate the 19-year veteran reaching 30,000 career points last month.
For Carlisle, the Romo plan was never about the former high school basketball standout in Wisconsin actually playing. He wanted to recognize a frequent front-row fan who always has a seat right behind where Carlisle roams the sidelines.
“There is a circus surrounding this because everybody wants to get a glimpse,” Carlisle said. “We understand that. This is how we feel about a special guy who’s been a very special competitor in really a very special sports market.”
Gary Harris scored 20 points in the first game for the Nuggets (39-42) since getting eliminated from the playoffs. Nowitzki led Dallas with 21 points.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)