The Seventh Annual 50 Most Powerful People in Metroplex Sports
Only one professional athlete has led a DFW team to a championship this millennium. He ranks alongside legends such as Josh Hamilton, Joe Nieuwendyk and Emmitt Smith as MVPs to lead their teams to titles in recent years. And he's the only one I know of — even in the wake of the Texas Rangers advancing to their first World Series — who prompted a fan to get a player's likeness tattooed ... on his ass.
While teammate DeShawn Stevenson was arrested a couple days after the Mavericks won their first NBA Championship, it's hard to envision a scenario in which Dirk Nowitzki would be locked up without first being given a commemorative key to the jailhouse.
"It's just an amazing ride that keeps getting better," Nowitzki said upon accepting ESPY Awards last week in Hollywood for NBA Player of the Year and Male Athlete of the Year. "All this ... I mean, it just makes all those struggles worth it."
For more than a decade, Nowitzki was the chastised German white dude who wasn't strong enough in the paint or tough enough in the locker room to take his Mavericks beyond 50 regular-season wins. Then, just when we least expected it, he unveiled another level of focus and Flamingo Fadeaways to vanquish the evil empire led by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
On a list that this year saw the disappearance of Laura Miller, Cliff Lee, Clint Hurdle, Wade Phillips and Bill Lively, Nowitzki ascended to the top of my seventh annual ranking of the 50 Most Powerful People in Metroplex Sports. For the first time since this column's inception in 2005, the top spot doesn't belong to an owner named Hicks or Cuban or Jones.
Fitting, because in 2011, Nowitzki has shattered all the stereotypes.
50. Tom Landry. The day he falls off this list is the day we all catch a flight to Hades in a wicker carry-on.
49. Tom Hicks. The former owner of the Rangers is thiiiis close to being former owner of the Stars and permanently off this list.
48. Nancy Lieberman. The undisputed first lady of Dallas sports is moving to the front office after a year coaching the Mavericks' D League team in Frisco.
47. Chuck Morgan. His in-game entertainment at Rangers Ballpark mesmerizes almost three million fans per season.
46. Chuck Greenberg. When, not if, he buys the Stars, he'll go skyrocketing up this list.
45. Pat Summerall. The NFL's former signature voice remains a marketable personality going strong in Southlake.
44. Don Hooton. When Major League Baseball launched its war on steroids, it started with a $1 million grant to his Taylor Hooton Foundation.
43. Jay Lombardo. If you see athletes wearing anything but their uniforms, they probably got it from Lombardo's Custom Apparel in Addison.
42. Gordon Jago. The director of The Dallas Cup does more for local soccer than Schellas Hyndman and David Ferreira combined.
41. Dr. Mary Collings. Chiropractor to the Stars. And Dirk Nowitzki. And numerous Cowboys.
40. Mike Modano. Playing in Detroit or not at all, he'll somehow always be ours.
39. Phil Baker. Year after year he successfully runs the area's biggest participant sporting event, the White Rock Marathon.
38. Norm Hitzges. His passion and knowledge are still audible after all these years on KTCK-AM 1310 The Ticket.
37. Charlotte Jones-Anderson. Don't underestimate the power of Jerry's only daughter.
36. Michael Johnson. His performance center in McKinney has sprinted him back to relevance.
35. Joe Nieuwendyk. The Stars general manager will forever be known as the man responsible for shoving out Modano.
34. Deion Sanders. When he disses Dez Bryant it's newsworthy. Not sure why, but it is.
33. Tim Cowlishaw. The lead columnist at Dallas' Only Daily has also won a time or two on ESPN's Around the Horn.
32. Terdema Ussery. Cozy with NBA commish David Stern and Nike founder Phil Knight, the Mavs president is often the eye of Mark Cuban's hurricane.
31. Donnie Nelson. The Mavs GM who discovered Dirk must now maintain unprecedented success by continuing to add youthful help.
30. Gary Patterson. The fiery TCU coach took the Frogs to the Rose Bowl and helped build a new Amon Carter Stadium.
29. Emmitt Smith. He's still a mover-and-shaker, and now a Hall of Famer.
28. Jordan Woy. The Dallas-based agent represents Jason Witten and more than 75 NFL players.
27. Dale Hansen. Love him or hate him, most of you watch him nightly on Channel 8.
26. Gerald Ford/Carl Sewell. SMU's biggest athletic boosters annually keep the program from slipping to NAIA quality.
25. Neftali Feliz. The Rangers closer hasn't been as consistent as he was in 2010, but he's still an elite pitcher who can get the 27th out in October.
24. Stephen Jones. The heir to the Cowboys' throne has his fingerprints all over Cowboys Stadium.
23. Brad Sham. He's still the most recognizable voice in Dallas.
22. Michael Irvin. When he poses shirtless on the cover of Out magazine, everyone takes notice.
21. Michael Young. The Rangers veteran consistently voices his opinions and threatens to leave, but he always winds up with 200-plus hits.
20. Troy Aikman. Fox's signature NFL analyst still packs power and pizzazz.
19. Dan Beebe. When all appeared lost, he somehow kept the Big 12 Conference family — and its Dallas headquarters — together.
18. Roger Staubach. Captain America will always be in the Top 20 just on reputation and respect.
17. Jason Kidd. The old point guard guided the Mavs to new heights.
16. June Jones. After leading SMU back to college football relevance, he forced school administrators to consider bending strict admissions policies.
15. DeMarcus Ware. The Cowboys' best player is also one of their best human beings.
14. Ron Washington. From cocaine user to AL All-Star manager.
13. Jason Witten. The Cowboys' all-time best tight end is also a prominent positive role model through his unyielding charity work.
12. Rick Carlisle. Proof you can be a champion without being a people person.
11. Randy Galloway. In his unique, good-ol' boy-speak, he continues to mold area opinions via ESPN Radio and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
10. Josh Hamilton. Blue eyes be damned, the reigning MVP influences fans with his bat, glove and faith.
9. Jon Daniels. It would be hard to top last year's Cliff Lee trade that led to Texas' first World Series.
8. Eddie Gossage. The face of NASCAR in Texas has crafted year-round racin' in Fort Worth.
7. Jon Heidtke. You wouldn't recognize him on the street, but the Fox Sports Net Southwest senior vice president makes the Mavs, Rangers and Stars decisions you recognize nightly on TV.
6. Nolan Ryan. Recent health scare aside, he's stronger than ever, and the Rangers' most recognizable face.
5. Tony Romo. When he's out of the news for too long it somehow becomes news.
4. Jason Garrett. A shot of intense Red Bull is just what the Cowboys need in wake of the lethargic, underachieving Wade Phillips.
3. Jerry Jones. Losing season, lousy Super Bowl in his stadium and the lockout have diminished his once unmatched aura.
2. Mark Cuban. He earned a trophy and — by keeping a low profile during the Mavs' playoff run — garnered mucho respect.
1. Dirk Nowitzki. His one-man struggle to the championship peak made the view even more remarkable.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Observer's biggest stories.