Over 100,000 fans had the chance to stand close to Dallas Mavericks history at the iconic “Mavs Vault” at the State Fair of Texas this year. The interactive museum displayed never-before-seen historical artifacts from the last 42 years. The exhibit was held at the Hall of State, and thousands of people walked through the doors daily. 

Mavs executives and planners said the event far exceeded their expectations, and the franchise is thankful for the community’s commitment and support from around the globe. This was the team’s chance to salute the city for over four decades of support. 

Each Thursday, the Mavs hosted a Legends Night at the Mavs Vault and players from the past and present greeted the public and reveled in the historic State Fair of Texas atmosphere.

Mavs Vault also hosted a Nurse Appreciation Night, presented by ShiftKey, with 3-and-D wing Reggie Bullock attending as a special guest. 

“My oldest son’s mother is a nurse, so I understand the work of nurses and the great things they do,” Bullock shared. “So it’s great for me to come and thank the nurses for their hard work. I had the chance to visit the State Fair twice and got a funnel cake, so it’s great to come out here, meet people and see this exhibit.” 

Bullock said when he attended the State Fair on his own, it was quite memorable because of how many fans are excited about Dallas Mavs basketball.

“Lots of pictures,” Bullock said, while smiling. “It was great though. The city is excited and we are, too, so it was a great day for my family.”

The Larry O’Brien Trophy from Dallas’ 2011 championship season has been on a glorious field trip this season. Earlier this year, it was on display for fans when the Mavericks paid tribute to Dirk Nowitzki in an emotional ceremony as No. 41 went into the rafters. As part of the celebration, Nowitzki’s personal collection was chronicled along the concourse for fans to see. 

The Mavs Vault took the memorabilia to another level because many fans who might not be able to attend or afford games were able to visit the exhibit with their State Fair ticket. 

“The fun part about this whole thing is that it just gives everybody a chance to understand more about the Mavericks in-depth,” said Dallas Mavs legend Rolando Blackman. “It helps people get the base and foundation and move forward to where we are now. Even before the championship year, we had many great teams and players, and people got to learn more about the franchise’s fabric.” 

In January, the process got underway when the Dallas Historical Society executive director met with Ronnie Fauss, the Mavericks’ chief strategy and innovation officer.

Every year since 1936, the Historical Society has aimed to fill the State Hall with unique artifacts to capture various audiences while remaining true to the mission. The Hall of State is the “home” of the Dallas Historical Society.

When the Dallas Historical Society was organized in 1922, it had no home, no staff, and no money. What it did have was a small but dedicated group of members who believed that to be a great city, Dallas needed to document, collect, and preserve its history. Over the last century, the DHS has strived to do just that, and collections like the Mavs Vault help tell the story of the city.

Sports are a great way to unite a diverse community. 

Once the Mavs were tapped to take over, Dallas Mavs SVP Erin Finegold White and her team got to work. 

This writer can attest that everything was set in motion years before when Finegold White spearheaded an initiative with Heritage Werks to create a historical archive. During the last few decades, the Mavs have accumulated much history, and the franchise needed an organizational system to sort through everything. 

In 2019, employees put their suits aside and rolled up their sleeves to sift through memorabilia in a warehouse to get the ball rolling. 

From there, Heritage Werks created a fascinating historical archive, and an organized system was in place. 

Thus, when the Historical Society came calling, almost everything was easily located. Other artifacts had to be borrowed, like Nowitzki’s MVP trophy, but the Mavs already owned over half of the memorabilia. 

Next, the Mavericks had to take 15,000 pieces of artifacts and choose 120 pieces for the final cut. 

In the end, the hard work paid off: nearly 132,000 people attended the Mavs Vault at the State Fair of Texas, and the team sold $125K in merchandise. 

Lindsay Oster was among those who helped spearhead the event. She has worked with the Mavs for nearly 20 years and serves as the Dallas Mavs Influencer & Events Manager. 

“Not only have I been with the team for almost 20 years, but I grew up in the DFW area,” said Oster, “so I’m familiar with the Mavs history and all the moments that built the team’s story.”

She said the Mavs Vault undertaking was a tremendous team effort.

“The most surprising thing might be the amount of time that goes into executing a project like this,” Oster said. “We essentially built a mini museum. There were multiple weekly meetings between our team, Heritage Werks and D&I. Our first meeting and site visit regarding Mavs Vault took place in January. We worked on the finishing touches until the morning it opened for the public. Lots and lots of collaboration made Mavs Vault possible. “

Instead of putting everything in chronological order, the exhibit went by eight themes: Fun & Games, Mavs Magic, MFFL, New Look, International Mavericks, Origins, Threads, and We Are The Champions. 

The Hall of State auditorium had a 30-minute video detailing the history of the Mavericks from their founding by Carter and Norm Sonju to the present. Some of the most interesting artifacts in the exhibition come from the team’s first decade of existence in the 1980s.

Perhaps the most extraordinary exhibit on display was not a what — but a who. The team hosted a VIP event before opening day, and the Mavs’ original co-founder Norm Sonju made a surprise appearance. 

Sonju and Carter launched the Mavs during an economic downturn when investors got nervous about the idea of an NBA team. They felt like football was king in Dallas and basketball would never catch on in the city.

“There was no sure thing that we’d have a franchise then,” said Sonju. “The interest rate was 21 percent. To get a franchise and see what it does for millions of fans and the people in Dallas means an awful lot. It’s fun to be back again.”

Many former employees from the last 40 years attended the Mavs Vault celebration event, everyone eager to share a story from the past that shaped their future.

New Mavericks general manager Nico Harrison stood nearby, visiting every part of the exhibit.

“I think everything about the history and culture of a franchise is the most important thing,” Harrison said. “You want to learn how they did it before and why they were successful so that you can carry that on all the way.”

The timing of the vault could not be better. The Mavericks were chosen for the 2022 Hall of State exhibit long before the team appeared in the Western Conference finals. So, fans visited this year while the excitement was at an all-time high. 

Sometimes preparation aligns with perfect timing. 

The last 42 years of the Dallas Mavericks tells a story that started with a dream from Sonju and Carter and now brings hope to millions of fans worldwide.

The Mavs Vault painted a vibrant picture of the power of sports to unite a community. The display was a walk down memory lane while sparking hope for the future. 

Some artifacts will have one more date with destiny this year when Dirk Nowitzki’s statue is dedicated on Christmas Day. The event will mark the franchise’s final chapter of a storybook year.

“For new fans or the general DFW resident, hopefully, they learned a few new things and gained an even better appreciation for the team,” said Oster. “2021-22 was significant because we were back in full force hosting in-person events again with very limited (if any) restrictions. Whether hosting a suite night for influencers, Cookies with Santa for local children, to Mavs Ball, every playoff game through May and ultimately Mavs Vault — it was a remarkable feat.” 

To view the Mavs mini-documentary, click here.

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