DALLAS - The Dallas Mavericks finally have championship rings for their first NBA title.
"Wow! Looks good," NBA finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki said after accepting his ring, kissing it and then holding it high over his head for all to see.
Exactly a month after raising the championship banner before the season opener Christmas Day, 11 players from the title-winning team got their rings in a pre-game ceremony Wednesday night before playing the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and coach Rick Carlisle, who was the first to receive a ring, presented the diamond-encrusted jewels to Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and seven other current players who were on last year's team. Also getting their rings during the ceremony were retired player Peja Stojakovic and J.J. Barea, who now plays for the Timberwolves and part of the reason the ceremony was held when it was.
The ceremony began with a video of the Mavericks being presented the NBA championship trophy at the end of the finals and other playoff highlights. It was the same montage shown on Christmas Day, with a couple of additions — video of the banner raising and the team's trip to the White House earlier this month.
The rings weren't ready for the season opener because Cuban waited until after the NBA lockout so he could confer with players about the design.
Carlisle introduced each player, the last being Nowitzki, who was dressed in a suit during the third of at least four games he's sitting out to improve game conditioning and his sore right knee. The coach introduced the 10-time all-star and former NBA MVP as a player "who one day soon will have a statute in front of the AAC (the team's arena) without question. The greatest player in Mavericks history."
Nowitzki thanked everybody for taking part in a "special, special" night, then pointed out that there was one more ring left.
"Without this man, nothing was possible," Nowitzki said. "He's the greatest owner in sports. Here's Mark Cuban. Thank you very much."
Cuban held up his ring and turned in a full circle to acknowledge the cheering crowd.
Barea, who missed his fourth consecutive game for Minnesota because of a sprained left ankle, received a huge ovation when he was the first player introduced by Carlisle. The rest of his Timberwolves teammates had retreated to the locker room before the ring ceremony.
The four players from last season's team not present to get rings were Corey Brewer, Caron Butler, Tyson Chandler and DeShawn Stephenson. Carlisle said he looked forward to presenting rings to those players later this season.
Carlisle is part of an exclusive group of people who have won championship rings as a player and coach. He was a player on the 1985-86 NBA champion Boston Celtics, though he said he is not much of a ring wearer and expects his new Mavericks ring to join that one securely stored away.
"We've got to be able to get the rings and enjoy that moment and then move on to the game and do better than we did opening night," Carlisle said before the game. "I think at this point, we have a good handle on it. This is the third one of this sort of thing that we've had, the banner and the White House and then this."
The Mavericks lost the season opener 105-94 to the Miami Heat in a rematch of the NBA finals that wasn't really that close. Dallas was already down by 15 points after the first quarter and 21 at halftime.
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