When news broke earlier this week that the Dallas Cowboys planned to release quarterback Tony Romo so that he could retire and begin a career in broadcasting, we naturally assumed that this meant Romo had chosen to put his playing days behind him rather than ever suiting up for a game in anything other than a Cowboys uniform.
Evidently, we were wrong. (There’s a reason they’ve got that saying about assuming stuff, I guess.)
The Dallas Mavericks plan to honor the passer-turned-color commentator at their home finale on Tuesday night, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein — not with some kind of video presentation, or halftime ceremony, or a special bobblehead, but by inviting the longtime Cowboys star to actually sit “on the bench and in uniform” for the matchup against the Denver Nuggets.
With starting point guard Seth Curry ailing in recent days and officially out for the rest of the season because of a shoulder ailment, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has said on multiple occasions over the past week that the club would be looking to add “a pass-first point guard” before playing out the season’s final five days.
People within the organization, sources tell ESPN, say he has been referring to Romo. […]
The Mavericks plan to treat him like an actual player on the roster for the day, sources said, even though Romo won’t actually play in the game. He last played competitive basketball in high school in Wisconsin.
“All the way up until really late in my high school career, I thought I was going to play basketball in college,” Romo told Graham Bensinger in an August 2016 interview. “Even when I was getting recruited for football, even a couple of months before I signed to play football in college, I still thought I was probably playing basketball.”
The 6-foot-2 Romo earned all-state honors in football, basketball and golf at Burlington High School in Burlington, Wisconsin. He starred on the hardwood as a senior, averaging 24.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 3.0 steals per game to earn co-conference player of the year honors, according to a 2008 ESPN RISE piece by Mike Loveday:
“A lot of us thought basketball was his best sport,” said Eric Burling, Burlington’s athletic director.
“Basketball was probably his favorite thing to play. He was starting on varsity as a sophomore. Everybody could see he thrived on the basketball court,” said his high school basketball coach, Steve Berezowitz. “Basketball was one of those things that he really stood out in. He stood out in the conference and in the county. By his senior year, he was a super basketball player.” […]
Romo’s senior-year production earned him a spot on the 1998 All-Racine County boys basketball team, alongside another prep star who would go on to big things in Dallas:
A post shared by Caron Butler (@caronbutler) on Apr 4, 2017 at 9:25am PDT
That’d be No. 54, Caron Butler, who played at Racine Park High before starring at UConn, becoming a first-round pick in the 2002 NBA draft, and embarking on a 14-year NBA career that would include two All-Star berths and a spot on the roster of the Mavericks squad that won the 2011 NBA championship. (Butler didn’t take the floor during that postseason run after suffering a ruptured right patellar tendon in early January.)
From a 2010 Dallas Morning News piece on the two Wisconsin products:
They played only one game against each other. Racine Park won, 72-42, at Burlington on Dec. 9, 1997. Butler scored 16 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter with Park closing the game on a 33-10 run. Romo had 12 points.
“They just crushed us,” [Romo’s high school coach Steve] Berezowitz remembered. […]
Said Butler, “He was a great scorer. His IQ for the game was unbelievable. He set you up, put you in great situations.”
Eventually, though, Romo had to choose between the two sports.
“I knew where the ceiling could probably end up being — at least, I thought I did, at that age — with basketball,” he told Bensinger. “I didn’t know where it could be with football.”
Romo probably chose wisely; it’s hard to imagine his hoops ceiling being much higher than 13 NFL seasons, four Pro Bowl trips, and a spot in the top 30 quarterbacks in NFL history in career completions, passing yards, passing touchdowns, completion percentage and game-winning drives. (To be fair, his ribs, collarbone, lung and spine might disagree.) And now, after all that, he’ll get a chance to actually experience what it might have been like had he chosen Door No. 2 and made it all the way to the pros there.
Well, minus the actual “playing in the game” part. Unless, presumably, Rick Carlisle gets really bored.
This is the kind of thing you can do as a tip of the cap to the hometown fans when you’ve fallen out of playoff contention, as the 32-47 Mavericks have in the closing weeks of the season. Sure, it’s kind of goofy and mawkish, but it’s certainly a warmer and more positive brand of fan interaction than some other famously bombastic owners of lottery-bound franchises have managed this week. That’s something, at least.
It is my sincere hope that Romo hits the floor for pregame warmups with the intention of putting on a show. I’m not sure if the 36-year-old has the bunnies to throw down, but Romo’s reportedly got some H-O-R-S-E game, so maybe he could cook up some below-the-rim wizardry.
If nothing else, here’s hoping he can avoid going Full Drake in layup lines. You never want to see an in-uniform guest suffer that indignity on his special night.
More NBA coverage:
– – – – – – –