Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sleepless, excited Mavericks fans welcome home champs at airport
G.J. McCarthy/Staff Photographer
Fans errupt in cheers as the Dallas Mavericks team plane lands at Dallas Love Field airport, June 13, 2011. The Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat in Game Six of the NBA Finals to secure the team's first championship title.
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The Mavericks fans waited for the proof.

Minutes turned into hours at Dallas Love Field on Monday morning. Temperatures crept into the 90s. The crowd on the fence along the tarmac swelled into the hundreds, all eager to catch a glimpse of the team that vanquished the mighty Miami Heat.

And then — out of the sky — there it was.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban stepped off the team plane around noon and hoisted high the NBA championship trophy.

The crowd roared and shrieked and danced.

After 31 years of lottery picks, playoff disappointments and otherwise bungled basketball, the wait was over.

Dallas was indeed home to the NBA’s best.

“I kept telling my friends, ‘The day is coming,’” said Gino Martinez, an artist and handyman from Forney. “Today is that day.”

The crowds arrived early at Love Field. A steady stream of blue walked down Lemmon Avenue and then clutched the fence along the tarmac.

Fans warded off heat with shade and bottles of water, boredom with impromptu cheers and chants, and bleary-eyed tiredness with unbridled excitement.

Kim Small of Arlington was running on championship fumes. A nurse at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Grapevine, Small finished up her night shift at 7 a.m. Monday.

She went straight out to buy Mavs gear and then headed to Love Field.

“I’m just so excited for all of them,” she said. “I couldn’t even sleep.”

Others skipped work or tweaked their schedules to fit the momentous celebration.

Dallas lawyer Brian Webb closed his law office for the day.

“We would all be distracted anyway,” he said.

Katie Griffin and Suzanne Richmond, teachers from White Settlement in Tarrant County, even decided to not teach summer school this year because the Mavs had a chance of winning the NBA Finals.

“We’re poor, but we’re not in summer school,” Richmond said.

The decision seemed wise as Dirk Nowitzki and the rest of the Mavericks followed Cuban off the team plane.

The crowd chanted, “M-V-P,” as the German-born star showed off his NBA Finals MVP trophy and walked toward the frenzied fans.

A stogie in his mouth and his injured left middle finger still taped up, Nowitzki high-fived seemingly every fan.

The Mavericks faithful, in turn, gawked at Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea. They laughed at DeShawn Stevenson’s slightly vulgar T-shirt that jabbed at LeBron James . They lavished praise on reserves such as Ian Mahinmi and Brian Cardinal.

The brush with greatness turned grown men into little boys and little boys into dreamers.

Geovanny Melgar, 8, of Euless repeated over and over to his mother, Trina, that he had touched Nowitzki’s hand.

Describing the moment with glee, Geovanny said, “I felt famous.”

And for a few minutes Monday, so did they al

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