Honoring Dr. Zamorano
The Mavericks honored 36-year Mavs team physician Dr J.R. "Pepe" Zamarano, who passed away this past June.
Dirk Nowitzki was a rookie and had come down with yet another sinus infection. Even after having surgery as a young boy, Nowitzki still routinely battled with the pesky illness.
He paid a visit to the team internist, but at the time the German could barely speak a word of English. He sat mostly in silence as the doctor checked out his mouth and nose. The only sound the future Hall of Famer uttered wasn’t a word, but a loud cough.
“Don’t cough on me, (expletive)!” the doctor yelled with a laugh.
“This guy’s crazy,” Nowitzki thought.
That was Dr. Z.
J.R. Zamorano, known to most as “Pepe,” was an original Maverick, agreeing to become the team’s first-ever internist when the club came into being in 1980. Hugely popular with the players and staff, he would continue his work with the club until his death this summer. He was 81.
“It was always great to see him the last couple years when he came in,” Nowitzki said. “He’d always give me a big old hug and ask me how the family was. I think he deeply cared about me and my career, not only as a basketball player, but my life. He was a great man to be around, and fun to be around. He’s for sure missed.”
The Mavs honored Zamorano with a moment of silence before the National Anthem and also presented his family with a No. 36 jersey, representing the number of years he worked for the organization, at a halftime ceremony. The team also wore “JRZ” patches on their jerseys, and the coaches wore “JRZ” pins on their lapels.
Norm Sonju, the Mavericks’ first general manager, hired Zamorano along with Dr. Pat Evans before the Mavericks played their first game in 1980, as both had already been working with the Cowboys. Like many others, when speaking about Zamorano, Sonju used the word “friend” much more than the word “doctor.”
“He’s the best of the best,” Sonju said. “It was a big loss. I’m so glad they’re honoring him tonight.”
Sonju, along with current general manager Donnie Nelson, Nowitzki, and several other current and former Mavericks officials, joined in the halftime ceremony with Zamorano’s family.
Mavs proprietor Mark Cuban joked that Zamorano’s “magic elixir” helped Nowitzki cope with an illness in the 2011 NBA Finals, referring to it as “the Dr. Z miracle.” The German overcame a 102-degree fever in Game 4 to lead the Mavericks to a win. The doctor traveled with the team throughout each playoff season, including in 2011.
“It’s heart-breaking. He was always a calming influence in the locker room,” Cuban said. “We all miss him.”
Added Nowitzki: “He was my guy. I loved him.”