DALLAS – It’s easy to forget just how good Dirk Nowitzki was during his peak years in the NBA.
Yet, recently, the NBA and the Dallas Mavericks have gone to great lengths in making sure the legacy of Nowitzki lives on far longer than his career did. Nowitzki was selected as part of the NBA’s 75th-anniversary team.
Shortly after, the Mavericks announced Nowitzki’s jersey retirement set for Jan. 5, 2022. The skinny forward from Germany has a lasting legacy in the NBA and Dallas. He’s still revered, in the city, as one of the great athletes. But it never went to his head.
After all the wins and success, Nowitzki remains humbled and honored by both his jersey retirement and the selection to the NBA’s anniversary team.
“It’s very humbling that when I first left Germany as sort of a 19–20-year old kid that over 20 years later I would have had all this stuff in Dallas,” Nowitzki said on a global media conference call. “I would have said you’re absolutely out of your mind, this is never going to happen… It was a dream career that worked out great for me that I could stay in one city and be part of this community for such a long time.”
To call what Nowitzki accomplished in Dallas a dream would undersell it. He accomplished the impossible.
During his 20 year career, Dallas made the playoffs for 12-straight seasons (2001- 2012). Dallas also won the franchises’ lone championship in 2011. Nowitzki averaged 27 points and 8 rebounds during the 2011 playoff run while shooting 48 percent from the floor and 46 percent from three.
Nowitzki’s individual greatness
He responded with effervescent greatness when the pressure mounted.
Under Nowitzki’s guidance, Dallas beat the Miami Heat, who featured LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in their respective primes. The kid from Germany was now a man. And in beating Miami, the same season James exclaimed the Heat would win multiple championships, Nowitzki exorcised his demons he’d lived with since the 2006 loss to Miami in the NBA Finals.
“We were an older team that wanted to play — wanted to win,” Nowitzki said. “I think we were really fortunate that we saw the, [Miami] in year one.”
Whether it was a favorable matchup or not, Nowitzki still averaged 26 points and 9.7 rebounds through six games in the 2011 NBA Finals. He took home Finals MVP. And he deserved every bit of the award.
Though Dallas never returned to the NBA Finals after the 2011 season, Nowitzki’s individual greatness was vindicated. All the doubters were silenced. The kid from Germany and his unusual methods and approach proved valid.
❗️ A DECADE OF CLUTCH PLAYS ❗️
— NBA (@NBA) December 28, 2019
The celebration Nowitzki deserves
In retirement, Nowitzki has gotten the celebration he undoubtedly deserves. He wasn’t the winningest player ever, but he changed the game. Through retiring his jersey and selecting him to the NBA’s 75th-anniversary team, Dallas and the league get to take a chance and admire just how great he was over two decades in the league.
“I was very proud to be on a list with the best who have ever played,” Nowitzki said. “I’m very humbled and blessed that people would vote me on that.”
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Feature image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.