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Derek Harper special to different generations of Mavs fans

Dallas Mavericks

Derek Harper special to different generations of Mavs fans

As someone who started watching NBA basketball at the age of nine in 2001, I can’t sit here and act like someone with a never ending bank of memories of Derek Harper playing with the Mavericks.  When Harper played his final game with the franchise in the spring of 1997, I was only four years old and probably playing with my toy dinosaurs in my backyard.  So if you’re looking for a nostalgic recollection of Harper playing in a Mavs uniform ahead of his number 12 being raised to the rafters of the American Airlines Center at halftime of tonight’s game against the New York Knicks (another team Harper played for during his career), you’re reading the wrong article.  Mavs fans my age have grown up loving Derek Harper for different reasons and there are plenty of them.

Most Mavs fans my age know Harper, or “Harp”, as the color commentator on Mavs TV broadcasts with the great Mark Followill and Jeff “Skin” Wade.  Harp always sticks up for the Mavs players, obviously loves watching Dirk Nowitzki as much as any MFFL, and is always entertaining to listen to when he’s not quite sure of how to react to some of Skin’s odd comments during broadcasts. 

As a die-hard Mavericks fan who watches every single game possible, I spend now 70-75 nights each season with Harper’s basketball intellect coming through my TV speakers.  While I may not be as familiar with his playing career, he’s definitely been a big part of the Mavs for this generation of fans. 

I’ve recently learned more about Harper’s playing career with Dallas thanks to a great book 100 Things Mavericks Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Tim Cato.  (Must read for any Mavs fan who grew up in the Dirk Nowitzki-era, get it on Amazon here)  Harper is mentioned all throughout the book and there were a lot of interesting nuggets about his time with the Mavs that I didn’t know before. 

Harp was a rookie when the Mavs won their first ever playoff series in 1984 over the Seattle SuperSonics in the legendary “Moody Madness” decisive game five.  He averaged an impressive 17 points and nearly 8 assists as the starting point guard for the 1987-1988 Mavericks team that went seven games with the legendary 1980’s Los Angeles Lakers teams in the Western Conference Finals.  Cato put it well in the opening line of the chapter dedicated to Harper:

“In almost every way, Derek Harper was a perfect Maverick.”  

When his number 12 jersey is officially raised to the rafters at halftime on Sunday night, Harp will become only the third player in Mavs history to have his jersey retired, joining Brad Davis and his number 15 and Rolando Blackman’s number 22.  It only took 22 years, but the Mavs are finally giving Harper the honor he deserves.  The 11th pick of the 1983 draft has his name sprinkled all over the Mavericks’ all-time leaders list in multiple categories.

  • Third in games played (832)
  • Fourth in points scored (12,597)
  • First in assists (5,111)
  • First in steals (1,551)

Even if I never got to see him don a Mavs uniform on the court, Derek Harper is obviously one of the most important players in franchise history.  It’s going to be a fun night at the American Airlines Center and it will be the first night of forever seeing the number 12 hanging from the rafters.  On behalf of everyone at Dallas Sports Fanatic and all Mavs fans:

Congratulations, Harp!

Born and raised in Dallas, I received my Bachelor's Degree from the University of North Texas in 2014 after majoring in Radio/TV/Film. I'm a lover of all sports and support every DFW team. I also announce high school sporting events for many DFW schools for "Friday Night Glory." Married with a wife and two wonderful kids. They know they have games to watch every night.

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