On a perfect 70-degree night with the clouds splashed with brilliant colors, Dallas Mavericks players waltzed out on stage to the tune of hip hop beats and loud cheers from some of the team’s most loyal supporters.
Finally, Dallas Mavericks basketball is back.
“Everything certainly feels different,” said Kristaps Porzingis, entering his third campaign with the Mavericks. “We’re excited, and the fans are excited. It’s great to be here.”
Players and fans were separated from each other due to health and safety protocols, but still, everyone seemed thrilled to come together and raise funds for a special cause.
Jersey patch sponsor Chime also served as a key partner, sponsoring this year’s Toast To Tipoff online auction.
“I’ve learned that all of our customers, all of our fans, and all of North Texas is what matters,” Mark Cuban said, when asked to reflect on the past 18 months.
“It’s up to the Mavericks to make everybody realize the community is important to us. We owe it to the kids who wake up dreaming of being a Maverick and parents who watch games with them. We have to stand up and do the right thing in front of them.”
Although this year’s Tipoff event took place outdoors, the format was similar to the prior years. TV and radio play-by-play voices Mark Followill and Chuck Cooperstein held down hosting duties and interviewed the players one-by-one on the stage.
Meanwhile, Mavs game night emcee and team inclusion ambassador Chris Arnold brought the hype during player introductions.
With a more intimate, sold-out crowd in attendance, MFFLs got an exclusive look at the new Mavericks squad and attendees heard from every player along with general manager Nico Harrison and head coach Jason Kidd.
There was even a surprise announcement about the future of the Mavs Foundation.
MAVS FOUNDATION SET TO DONATE $1 MILLION IN SPECIAL GRANTS THIS YEAR
Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall took the stage first on Tuesday night and thanked supporters for their continuous commitment to the Mavs Foundation.
Over the past 25 years, the Mavs Foundation has provided grant funding totaling more than $7 million dollars to nonprofit organizations serving women, children and families in need. In addition to grants, the Mavs Foundation has built 50 safe Learn & Play spaces throughout the North Texas community, including 29 basketball courts and 21 Reading & Learning Centers.
The annual Tipoff event is one of Mavs Foundation’s premier fundraising events, along with the annual Mavs Ball, slated to return this season on March 4, 2022.
“We can’t do this work without you, and today we celebrate you and the start of a new season,” Marshall said. “We celebrate all the amazing things the Mavs Foundation has been able to support thanks to you.”
Marshall also made a surprise announcement on behalf of the Mavs Foundation.
“This year, we’re going to donate $1 million in special grants and projects,” she exclaimed. “We’re going to do that! The board just decided, so we’re going to be building more basketball courts for community centers, donating food for homeless shelters and providing other resources for (our community) during this challenging time.”
A BAND OF BROTHERS
The Dallas Mavericks’ work in the community was the night’s main event, along with personal stories and interviews with every single player on the team.
There was plenty of laughter and many inside jokes, creating the perfect atmosphere for everyone in attendance. The guys seemed relaxed and hopeful, acknowledging the remarkable camaraderie between this year’s squad.
They are a family, a band of brothers, now ready to compete as one unit with high hopes for the season.
Dwight Powell is the longest-tenured player on the Mavs roster and he said spending time together has been a great benefit for the group.
“Our chemistry is something that is going to be a strength of ours going forward,” Powell said.
He explained how many small moments like taking water breaks together were eliminated during the pandemic “and those small conversations mean a lot, especially for teams trying to form an identity and build their stature in this league. It’s huge that we’re able to have each others’ backs and build that trust.”
Dallas Mavs sensation Luka Dončić was the final player to take the stage Tuesday night and Followill asked about his historic summer playing in the Tokyo Olympics with Slovenia.
“Everything was great until the last two games,” Dončić quipped. “From there, I don’t want to talk about it.”
Dončić said he took two trips to Greece and Croatia during his short break and he was intentional about getting his mind away from the game. Now he’s ready to get things rolling for his fourth NBA season when the Mavericks face the Hawks on national television for the season opener in Atlanta (Thurs., 6:30 p.m. CT).
“I think like everybody said, since you asked everybody this question, I’m very excited,” Dončić joked with Followill. “Everybody can see in the preseason the way we practice and the way we have fun. I think we’re playing great. We’re just going to transition that to the regular season and then into the playoffs and that’s it.”
Fortunately Dončić has a new head coach that knows a little something or two about what it’s like to carry a team deep into the playoffs.
Coach Kidd said communication is key to help Dončić and the rest of the team excel.
“You have to listen, be a great listener and that’s what I’ve done,” Kidd said. “And not just with Luka but with a lot of the players, if not all of them. Communicating (is important) but also listening to what they want. And now I’ve had success helping guys get to the finish line of achieving their goals, so hopefully I can do that with all 15.”
During the interview session with Porzingis, the Latvian shared how external noise provided him with plenty of fuel during the summer months.
“Just with everything that happened, how the season ended, it led me into a really good off-season. (I was) healthy and being able to put in all this work. Then I was driven by the outside noise. If I want it, I listen to it. If I want to turn the noise off, I don’t listen. But this summer, I used it to my advantage, I used it as gas, and I had a great summer. I’m looking forward to our first game.”
Here are a few other highlights from this year’s Toast To Tipoff, benefitting the Mavs Foundation…
LUKA’S JERSEY GOES FOR $6K
American technology company and team jersey patch sponsor Chime served as the Toast To Tipoff auction sponsor and the auction raised over $34,000 for the Mavs Foundation. The highest winning bid this year was a Dončić autographed jersey that someone won for $6,000, followed by an 18-person suite auctioned for $5,250 for the Mavs home opener next Tuesday, Oct. 26. An autographed Luka Dončić 2018 jersey patch worn during his rookie season netted over $3K; tickets to the Mavs vs. Lakers game on Dec. 15 garnered an additional $3,250.
TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK
Jason Kidd provided attendees with a unique insight into how he plans to approach the season, aiming to create leaders both on and off the court.
“We learn from our lessons, good or bad. I’ve learned that we’re going to have fun. This is an excellent group of young men. They come to work every day and want to compete. We have to put a scoreboard up because it’s all about winning (to them). And I love that. My job is to make the game fun and simple, and that’s what we’re doing. They’re having fun and keeping it simple.
There’s no perfect season, we’re going to have the ups and downs, but we’re going to play hard, remain consistent, and be unselfish. Even if we lose, we’re going to tip our hat to the opponent and get ready for the next game.”
CUBAN PRAISES NEW MAVS LEADERSHIP
After welcoming Mark Cuban, Nico Harrison, and Jason Kidd on stage, Mark Followill asked Cuban about his expectations with the new staff.
Cuban joked, “they better not screw it up!” Later he shared more on how Coach Kidd eventually landed back in Dallas.
“Every time we played (the Lakers), he’d come up to me, ‘hey Cube, what’s going on?’ I’d just smile. Then he’d remind me, ‘hey, you know that I’m Mavericks all the way, I’m here whenever you need me Cube, I’m here.'”
Cuban said he called Kidd up this summer and asked if he’s still there?
Jason didn’t miss a beat on the phone call and replied, “I’m here,” so the boss man told him “well, come on then.”
It seemed quick, but really it was a moment that Kidd had unknowingly prepared for during prior seasons when he was a head coach and then quietly took a backseat to serve as an assistant with the Lakers to grow and learn.
“Having Jason back is just a huge move for us,” Cuban told the audience. “He’s been the heart and soul of this organization multiple times, and he’s learned. Sometimes, you find someone based on background and experiences in different industries, like Nico (Harrison), and you bring them in because they bring a different viewpoint. Then there are other times when you see people and how they’ve learned and gone through their profession on the court and off, and you recognize that you want somebody that has gotten smarter. They’ve learned from mistakes and successes.”
Cuban said that Kidd’s ability to connect with players is unique and the guys really relate well with him.
“He’s gotten better at his ability to communicate, and with the NBA in 2021-22, how you connect to your players and how hard you get them to play is 99 percent of the battle. And if you’ve watched any of our preseason games, you know this team is ready to play.”
Cuban equally praised the leadership and vision that Harrison brings to the Dallas Mavericks.
“We got really lucky. I’ve known Nico for about 20 years, and he’s somebody who has demonstrated an incredible commitment to success, managing, taking care of people, and relating to people…I just felt like that’s what we needed from the organization at this point in time. As things changed, it was our chance to go forward in a new direction, and Nico was everything I was looking for.”
THE VIBES REALLY WERE IMMACULATE.
Perhaps one of the top highlights of the night was the fact that organizers made the event happen.
Health and safety protocols required the Mavs’ events and community relations teams to reimagine the annual Tipoff event and they spent months planning the special night. Their creative vision and hard work came to life at the 2021 Mavs Toast To Tipoff and countless families and children will be impacted thanks to the funds raised this year.
Mother Nature even came in clutch to provide the decorations. At one point during the show, a group of butterflies fluttered above the players like a scene straight from a Hallmark movie.
For a moment, life seemed, well, a little closer to normal, and there was a tremendous sense of community and togetherness felt by everyone.
The night was beautiful. It was inspiring. It was the perfect start to a new era for the Dallas Mavericks and Mavs Foundation.
If you would like to learn more about the mission of the Mavs Foundation, click here.
A special thanks also goes out to our incredible sponsors that helped make the 2021 Toast To Tipoff possible:
Kroger– Presenting Sponsor
Chime – Online Auction
UT Southwestern Medical Center – Salud Partner
Lower My Texas Property Taxes, LLC – Salud Partner
Ben E. Keith Co.– Salud Partner
Prime Lending – Cheers Partner
Logan & Rios – Cheers Partner
Moët & Chandon – Champagne Partner
Osadia Tequila – Bar Partner
Dr. Delphinium Designs & Events – Floral Partner
To view the photo gallery from the 2021 Toast To Tipoff and watch the video replay, visit Mavs.com/ToastToTipoff.