The greatest player in Dallas Mavericks history welcomed some of his famous friends from the sports and entertainment world for his second annual Dirk Nowitzki Pro Celebrity Tennis Classic presented by Morgan Stanley at the SMU Tennis Center.
All proceeds from the sold-out event will benefit families and children affected by Hurricane Harvey. Mavs owner Mark Cuban pledged to match the proceeds up to $2 million.
“Thanks to all the celebs,” Nowitzki said. “I say it all the time that we all get yanked in a million different directions. For you all to make the time to come in here and commit and most of you from out of town, it means a lot to this event.”
The event got underway on Friday evening with a VIP party at the posh Joule Hotel in downtown Dallas where the bulk of the money was raised. The exclusive soiree featured entertainment by singer-songwriter Amos Lee and a live auction with big-ticket items.
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“We had a great night last night,” Nowitzki continued. “We raised a lot of money and it was a complete success. Hopefully we can play some good tennis because today is more about having fun and interacting with fans.”
The celebrities and athletes on hand also included Dallas Stars great Mike Modano, actor Owen Wilson, Mavs guard J.J. Barea and professional tennis players Tommy Haas, Donald Young, Mark Knowles, Benjamin Becker, Michael Russell, Luka Gregorc and last year's champion Andy Roddick.
Ben Rogers and Jeff “Skin” Wade from 105.3 The Fan were the emcees of the event and entertained the crowd with commentary on the ongoing matches as well as with interviews with the players during the action.
The tennis was split into three round-robin sections, with each of the six courts at the SMU Tennis Center featuring doubles matches. Each team featured a pro/celebrity along with an amateur partner that forked over big bucks to be a part of the fun.
The first round gave the fans exactly what they wanted to see as two of Dallas' all-time sports icons faced off, with Nowitzki taking on Modano.
“Dirk and I have known each other for 20-plus years and kind of grew up together in Dallas,” Modano said. “We accomplished a lot of great things and great memories in this town. We've tried to always give back to this city and Dirk's been an amazing ambassador for this town, for the Mavericks and for basketball worldwide.
“Anytime he calls and we're available, we are quick to help out and we have a great time together,” Modano continued.
Nowtizki would get the better of that particular clash that drew some big cheers from the capacity crowd.
Last year's inaugural tennis event brought Ben Stiller to Dallas after Nowitzki sent him a direct message on Twitter.
For this year's event, Nowitzki followed that up by having Dallas native Owen Wilson among those playing in the tournament.
“Ben was here last year and said he had a great time,” Wilson said. “I was excited when Dirk called and invited me to participate. I'm looking forward to playing.
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“As I look at these other guys, I don't see how I lose today,” Wilson joked. “I have been working on my 'just out' call. You guys are going to be hearing 'it could've gone either way, but I saw it out.'”
The final match of the day wrapped up with Donald Young and amateur Justin Whitman defeating J.J. Barea and amateur Jim McKinney to win the championship.
“For me it was a no-brainer, Dirk is one of my favorite players,” Young said. “To get the invite was a must-do and to do it for a special cause is something important, I'm just happy to be here and have fun playing tennis.”
For further information on the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation, visit dnfoundation.org.
Follow Jay Betsill on Twitter at twitter.com/thefamousjay