President Barack Obama lauded the Dallas Mavericks for their special brand of championship teamwork a season ago and he pointed out attributes of several players.
But, he saved top recognition for NBA Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki -- even if the president had a little trouble pronouncing the 7-foot German's last name.
"Dirk joined the Mavericks 13 years ago as a skinny kid from Germany with what he describes as a goofy haircut," Obama said. "Last year, he became the second European player ever to be named Finals MVP, and it wasn’t easy. He bent a finger so badly in Game 2 that he had to shoot left-handed. In Game 4, he played through a 101-degree fever, but every time he came through when it counted. I think it’s fair to say that we have very rarely seen a better playoff run than Dirk Nowitzki had last year. It was remarkable.
"So, clearly Dirk is a tough guy, although the most painful thing may have been his rendition of “We are the Champions” during the celebration."
Dirk could then be heard saying that he had worked on it.
"You said you worked on that?" Obama siad, turning toward Dirk. "Seriously? OK."
The run was remarkable. Nowitzki averaged 27.7 points and 8.1 rebounds, both higher averages than his regular season numbers. Sure, some of Obama's facts were a tad off. That finger Nowitzki bent back so badly was a torn a ligament in his left middle finger in Game 1, yet he still managed to win Game 2 with a beautiful drive and left-handed layup in the waning moments. And Nowitzki did play through a 101-degree fever and sinus infection in Game 4, which he also won with a driving layup with 14.4 seconds to play.
To end the ceremony, Dirk presented Obama with a No. 23 Mavs jersey. With Obama hailing from Chicago, the Michael Jordan connection was obvious, and Obama told Nowitzki: "I was 23 before Jordan."