By Karolos Grohmann
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's soccer-mad newspapers were celebrating rare basketball success on Tuesday after Dirk Nowitzki became the first German to win an NBA title when his Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat.
"This is the title that we were missing," read the front page of the best-selling Bild newspaper on Tuesday, which usually reserves a front page sports story almost exclusively for the country's soccer exploits.
Among those congratulating the player on Tuesday were the country's Chancellor Angela Merkel and sports leaders.
The paper placed his victory on a par with Germany's first soccer World Cup win in 1954, boxer Max Schmeling's world title, tennis player Boris Becker's first Wimbledon title in 1985 and German cyclist Jan Ullrich's Tour de France victory in 1997.
Mavericks forward Nowitzki, who averaged 26 points per game in the finals was named the Most Valuable Player of the series after his team clinched their first championship with a 4-2 win over the Heat in the best-of-seven NBA finals on Monday.
Basketball briefly enjoyed higher status in Germany after the country won the European title in 1993 but its popularity had declined again since.
The Mavericks' win early on Monday morning German time quickly thrust the sport back into the spotlight with congratulations pouring in from the country's political and sporting leaders, including Merkel.
"The Chancellor followed the (NBA) Final series and was delighted with the victory," Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a tweet. "The Chancellor supported Dirk Nowitzki throughout the series and now congratulates him warmly."
Germany's national soccer team coach Joachim Loew also heaped praise on Nowitzki.
"He completed an amazing performance," Loew told reporters. "He is exceptional and one of Germany's top sportsmen. The title win is the cherry on top of a stunning basketball career in the United States."
The few bars showing the match in Berlin were packed with fans eager to see a victory for Nowitzki after 13 years in the NBA.
In Belushi's pub, a giant projector screen usually dedicated to soccer matches generated cheers from the crowd every time Dallas won a point or rebound.
"He made it! The first and the last NBA title for a German player," said Jakob Jordan, 28. "I usually watch soccer, but it was worth the late night to see this final."
A crowd of about 100 people shouted "MVP " and "Dirk" as they poured out into the street at sunrise.
(Additional reporting by Brian Rohan in Berlin)
(Writing by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond)