The man who helped make the Dallas Mavericks relevant in the NBA in a short period of time was immortalized Sunday night at halftime of the Dallas Mavericks game against the New York Knicks at the American Airlines Center.
Point guard Derek Harper, who wore jersey No. 12 for 12 of his 17 seasons in the NBA, had his number retired to the rafters alongside teammates Rolando Blackman and Brad Davis.
Harper’s emotions were on display throughout Sunday afternoon, with colleagues and fans snapping pre-game selfies.
“I’m thrilled for one of the best competitors I ever played against or saw play,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s interesting with Derek’s number going into the rafters, I’d love to see our own rookie point guard be able to develop the kind of defensive skills that Derek had.”
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Harper received a thunderous ovation when his jersey was unveiled.
Harper’s style and production was a key reason Dallas was able to quickly ascend to elite status in the NBA after beginning play as an expansion team in 1980.
“When I got the call that they were going to retire Derek’s number, I would have crawled here,” former coach Dick Motta said. “There are moments in life to cherish, and I wish all of you people could be half as fortunate as me to be around such a great man, loyal and on time.
“I don’t think I ever fined Derek or raised my voice to him and quite honestly, I feel like I had the best 3-guard rotation in the history of basketball. I love Derek Harper.”
Dallas used its 11th overall pick in the draft to take Harper out of the University of Illinois and he was an immediate asset to go along with Davis, Blackman, Mark Aguirre and Jay Vincent.
With the Mavericks on the upswing after finishing the 1982-83 season at 38-44 and seven games behind the Denver Nuggets for the final playoff spot, Harper was an embryonic part of the team’s first playoff appearance with Dallas finishing the regular season 43-39 in the Midwest Division.
Harper averaged 5.7 points that season and dished out 2.9 assists in almost 20 minutes per game.
By the end of his playing days in Dallas, Harper had been a part of six playoff teams and one appearance in the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers and had averaged 15 points and 6.1 assists. He would go on to average 10 or more points in 10 of his 12 seasons ini Dallas.
Harper had stints with the Knicks, the Magic and the Lakers before a trade to Detroit offered the opportunity for the 18-year veteran to call it a career.
He then moved on to post-career media work and been a regular color commentator alongside play-by-play voice Mark Folowill on Mavericks telecasts.
This is his 11th season as an announcer.