The post-NBA career awards just keep coming for former Dallas Mavericks superstar Dirk Nowitzki.
Another prestigious honor will land on Nowitzki’s doorstep on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Omni Hotel in downtown Dallas during the Heroes on the Water inaugural gala. That’s when Nowitzki, along with former Dallas Cowboys players Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith, will be recognized as the Mount Rushmore of Dallas sports.
The fundraising event will include a dinner, a silent auction and a live auction, and will benefit veterans, active duty military and first responders and their families. And a sellout crowd of 500 will be on hand for the festivities.
“What you can expect is really wonderful food and some amazing talent and get to know a little bit more about Heroes on the Water,” said Laura Armbruster, the director of communications and community engagement for Heroes on the Water. “We have some videos that we’re going to show so that we can introduce our organization to people who may not be familiar with us.
“We’re based here in the Dallas area, we just passed our 12th year last October and we provide kayak fishing excursions to veterans, first responders and their families at no cost to them. We have learned throughout the years and through some various studies that outdoor therapy is very impactful for our veterans and first responders. It helps with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury symptoms.”
As far as the four athletes are concerned, they will be on stage together for a question and answer session moderated by WFAA sports director Dale Hansen.
“This is all an intimate unscripted casual conversation with these guys about all sorts of things, so it should be really fun,” Armbruster said. “We’re amazingly blessed that they’re willing to donate their time to help us. This is our very first gala, so we’re completely just blown away by their generosity.
“Dale Hansen agreed to help us with our inaugural gala and he’s the one that pulled all of that together. He’s also a veteran, so he has a soft spot for our organization and what we do, so that’s amazing.”
Staubach guided the Cowboys to wins in Super Bowls VI and XII, while Aikman and Smith were key cogs in the Cowboys emerging victorious in Super Bowls XXVII, XXVIII and XXX. Meanwhile, Nowitzki was the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2007, and also led the Mavs to the 2011 championship and retired last season while finishing his illustrious 21-year career as the league’s No. 6 all-time leading scorer.
“For what he’s done for this town, I’ve seen it,” Mavs guard J.J. Barea said of Nowitzki. “I’ve seen it since 14 years ago.”
In the meantime, Armbruster discussed how difficult it is for veterans when they return home after fulfilling their military duties.
“And with first responders, these are people that run to danger to keep us safe, and they can’t un-see and un-feel all the things that happen to them,” she said. “So, giving them an opportunity to get out and decompress in a safe environment is crucial to their wellness.
“This is a group of people that are so dedicated to being committed to our society that once we do everything that we can to help them get well, they give that back in spades. And our veterans end up becoming first responders a lot of time. Yeah, it’s kayak fishing and it’s fun, but there’s a real science and a purpose behind it, and that’s why we do what we do.”
Nowitzki, Staubach, Aikman and Smith will each auction off one of their personally autographed jerseys, and take a photo with the winner.
Barea, who was on the 2011 championship team with Nowitzki, pointed out how the native of Germany progressed during his storied career and how he most definitely deserves to be on he Mount Rushmore of Dallas sports.
“This town saw him grow up, saw him become the man he is on the court and outside of the court,” Barea said. “So yeah, he’s got to be up there, and I think everybody is going to agree with me. And knowing him, he’s going to enjoy it.”