When he approached NBA commissioner Adam Silver with the idea, Cuban said, “I told him what I was going to do and said, ‘Fine me if you don’t like it.'”
Silver told Cuban the contract would not be honored, which killed the idea but did not stop the Mavericks from honoring the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback.
“Signing him and stuff like that, would have been too much for a lot of reasons,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said before his team’s 109-91 loss. “No. 1, he’s a football athlete that’s not ready to play in an NBA game. That’s very risky. No. 2, to sign a guy with all of our requirements from a physical standpoint with the hours and hours of screening and all that kinds of other stuff, it just wasn’t worth going there. And that’s not really what this is about.”
There has been some criticism of the Mavericks for how they chose to honor Romo. Cuban believes it falls in line with how the Mavericks have honored other Dallas stars, such as Mike Modano, Ivan Rodriguez and others.
“Anybody who thinks a layup line is disrespectful, hasn’t watched an NBA game,” Cuban said. “We’ve got people shooting half-court shots at every break, we’ve got kids for ball boys … We’re entertainment. And if they’re so self-important they can’t recognize that, it’s on them. Not me.”
Romo admitted to feeling a little out of place after going through his first — and only — Mavericks shootaround on Tuesday morning.
“I feel like they’re all 7 feet tall,” Romo said. “They’re all long and lean. I look like a turtle out there next to these guys. But it’s a special group of guys who are talented and the NBA is a special fraternity.”
Romo, who is 6-foot-2, got to experience the fraternity at the request of Cuban, Carlisle and future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki as Dallas closed out its home schedule against the Nuggets. The organization wanted to pay tribute to the former Cowboys quarterback by having him be “a Maverick for a day.”
Romo arrived at American Airlines Center a little after 9 a.m. ET with his youngest son, Rivers, and cousin Andy Alberth. The Mavericks went through a film session preparing for the Nuggets’ offensive sets and defensive rotations. Around 10:30 a.m., he took to the court in full uniform — wearing No. 9, even if that number officially belongs to Nicolas Brussino — for a team photo.
Romo returned to the locker room with fellow Wisconsin native Devin Harris to change into Mavericks practice gear for the morning shootaround.
Several of Romo’s newest teammates noticed the larger-than-normal media gathering in the hallways leading to the court.
“Just a normal shootaround today,” Harrison Barnes joked as he walked to the court.
Romo worked on the scout team, even making a jump shot from the wing.
“He busted the asses of a few of our young guys out there,” Carlisle said.
The Mavericks wanted to honor Romo’s 14 years of service to the Cowboys and his support of the Mavs over the years. Romo said he has gone to too many games to count but has become a passionate fan. He can often be spotted near or behind the Dallas bench, where he rides the referees or holds running conversations with the players.
“He stood for all of the things great Dallas athletes stand for,” Carlisle said. “A great competitor, a winner, plays hurt, the whole thing. And he’s been a great supporter of the Mavericks and a good friend to myself, Dirk, Mark and so many. So we wanted to see if he would be willing to do this and we’re happy that he was enthusiastically accepting.”
Romo arrived at the arena for the game around 6 p.m. He spent time in the Mavericks’ practice gym, shooting jumpers with Nowitzki and J.J. Barea as Carlisle gave him some fundamental pointers. Romo’s wife, Candice, and two sons watched through a window from an arena restaurant. Romo’s father-in-law, Chris Crawford, wore a Romo Mavericks T-shirt that the team was selling before the game. His cousin, Alberth, wore a Romo replica Mavs jersey.
“Anybody who thinks a layup line is disrespectful, hasn’t watched an NBA game. We’ve got people shooting half-court shots at every break, we’ve got kids for ball boys … We’re entertainment. And if they’re so self-important they can’t recognize that, it’s on them. Not me.”
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban
Shortly before 7 p.m., Romo jogged out to the court for pregame warm-ups, his arrival generating a noticeable buzz in the arena. As he ran onto the court in a Mavericks warm-up jersey, he acknowledged the crowd with a quick wave. His first layup was cheered. His first made jump shot was cheered. He played a series of brief one-on-one games with Dwight Powell, Harris and Nerlens Noel.
Fans lined the court, holding cell phones high to document the event. As Romo went through warm-ups, Ezekiel Elliott showed up wearing a throwback No. 9 Cowboys jersey. Jason Witten hung back in the crowd, observing. About a dozen Cowboys teammates were in attendance.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan sat together. Executive vice president Charlotte Anderson and Gene Jones, wife of Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones, sat together near the Nuggets’ bench. Anderson wore a vintage Romo jersey, autographed and all.
As the Mavericks’ starters were announced one by one, they for once did not save Nowitzki for last. Instead, Romo was introduced as their sixth starter and he ran to the players amid high fives and loud cheers. Fans chanted his name, just as they did all those years at Texas Stadium and AT&T Stadium.
“This is an honor I could never have dreamed of,” Romo told the crowd before the game. “It’s a little embarrassing, but I tell you what I’m very lucky. Thank you, Dallas. I love you.”
From there he took his seat next to Cuban, cheering on his new teammates.