The Mavericks never signed him to a formal contract, so Romo couldn’t actually play in the game against the Denver Nuggets, but he did everything else. He took part in the morning shoot-around, the pre-game warm ups, the introductions and was on the bench throughout the Mavericks’ 109-91 loss to the Nuggets.
Everyone within the organization was on board with the idea, including star Dirk Nowitzki.
“Obviously he was a good player back in Wisconsin in high school,” Nowitzki said of Romo’s basketball aptitude. “You could tell – he’s got some handles, he’s got a little shot, shot a little bit before the game down there on the practice court. He made like four out of five 3-pointers, so I had to actually concentrate to beat him. But, yeah, he’s a good little player.”
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Nowitzki even mentioned that Romo gave him a couple shooting tips on the bench. Anything specific?
“I forgot already,” Nowitzki said, laughing.
Nowitzki admitted he would have liked to see Romo get some game action during a meaningless home finale, but that wasn’t possible. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told NBA commissioner Adam Silver of his plans, and Silver responded by saying a contract wouldn’t have been approved.
The league’s lawyers, Cuban said, didn’t want to set that sort of precedent.
“That would have been fun for a minute or so,” Nowitzki said of Romo playing. “But probably better that Cubes didn’t do it. … The refs were aware he wasn’t on the roster.”
Coach Rick Carlisle teased the crowd by having Romo come toward him as though he might check into the game. But it wasn’t going to happen on a night when the Mavericks wanted to honor the former Cowboys quarterback who announced he’d be moving to the broadcast booth for CBS Sports earlier this month.
Nowitzki had nothing but praise for Romo’s football career in which he walks away as the Cowboys’ all-time leader in passing yards (34,183), passing touchdowns (248), passer rating (97.1), completion percentage (65.3) and most 3,000-yard passing seasons (seven).
"He was a master at making stuff out of nothing," Nowitzki said. "Being stuck in situations where you feel like three, four guys around him and usually other quarterbacks would just go down, but he would spin and then spin the other way and run back 10 yards and then find the open receiver.
"Just the scrambling that he did when the play wasn't working, he was one of the best in the game. He was so much fun to watch. You're kind of sitting there, holding your breath for a second and he comes up with another solution. It was just fun to watch. There was a little bit of Brett Favre in him, I think, just making plays out of nothing when the play breaks down. That's what I remember him the most for."