DALLAS — Fans of the Dallas Mavericks held on through the NBA lockout just to see their favorite team unfurl the spoils of victory.
On Christmas Day, the Mavs revealed their championship banner to a cheering crowd at the American Airlines Center just before the shortened season's first game against the vanquished Miami Heat.
Team owner Mark Cuban, Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki and the rest of the team tugged on ropes to reveal the flag that will hang from the rafters. The players' names lined the edge, but the team made a point of including the fans in their six-month celebration.
"You guys made this ride special," Nowitzki told fans during the pregame ceremony. "You guys went through a lot of disappointments with me... with the team over my 13 years. We waited very long for this. Thank you very much for coming. Merry Christmas! Go Mavs!"
Several fans dressed as Santa Claus or displayed holiday-themed signs. Some families forged new holiday traditions.
Mayci Embry's dad, Matt Embry, flew her in from Amarillo just so she could say she was one of the lucky ones to see the Mavs hoist the banner. It was her first Christmas and her first Mavericks game.
Matt Embry dad said her grandparents were upset to see her leave their house, but it will provide a great story for later in life. "Twenty years from now we are going to tell her what we did on her first Christmas, and I think it's going to be an amazing story for her," he said.
Fans who arrived early received replica banners on small keychains. Laura Cochran made the drive from Midlothian and quickly handed over a fistful of cash to buy her own mementos.
"Because I love the Mavericks," Cochran explained. "I was one of the first in line for T-shirts when they won the title. So this time, we left the kids at home. Sorry guys! Merry Christmas!"
Jason Terry shared the microphone with Nowitzki and also thanked the fans for coming to the game on a holiday.
"We'd like to thank each and every one of you, because 31 years you waited... 31 years!" he said.
No one will forget the Mavs first title.
That brand new banner will be there to remind them from now on.