Germany’s National Sport is Football but no German made more noise in the international scene than NBA Basketball Player Dirk Nowitzki.
A future Hall of Famer, Nowitzki has been a household name in the past 20 decades since he revolutionized the Power Forward Position. This season, he bid the game goodbye as he played his last season. Fans may have seen the last of the German Basketball Player but certainly, his name will leave a mark in the Basketball world for the rest of our lives.
Let’s take a look at Dirk Nowitzki’s career.
The Early Years
Born June 19, 1978, Dirk Nowitzki’s professional basketball career started when he was 15 with DJK Wurzburg. He then caught the attention of former German National Player Holger Geschwindner, who offered to coach him individually. With Geschwindner, he developed not only his basketball abilities but his personality.
With his skills honed by Geschwindner, he had a choice to stay as a hometown hero in Germany or step up a notch and play with the best in the world. He later would decide to be ready for the big boys and committed to practice 7 days a week and prepare himself for international competition.
Dirk played with DJK Wurzburg for 4 years from 1994-1998 in the German league before getting drafted in the NBA. He got decent stats which made scouts notice about his potential. Every year he made progress and got the attention of international scouts. His participation in the Nike Hoop Heroes allowed him to play with the likes of Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley. After the said event, he was chosen to play on the Nike Hoop Summit where he displayed his “A” game against US Talents Rashard Lewis and Al Harrington. From there his career was all up as scouts from the US and other international countries were in awe with this German national’s talent.
Nowitzki passed up many college offers and went straight to the World’s Biggest Stage, the NBA. He was a sure Top 10 Draft Pick in 1998 prompting him to decide and go professional in the US. The Milwaukee Bucks selected him as the 9th pick in the 1998 draft, making him only the 4th German player in NBA History. Shortly after he was drafted, he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks. The move made the Dallas Mavericks front office a genius as Nowitzki’s career was only getting started and was a “diamond in the rough”.
Dirk’s career in the NBA was not an instant hit. He went through the normal challenges of a foreign player making a name in basketball premier league. He started playing for Coach Don Nelson who often used him as a Power Forward and he was getting overpowered by more stronger and athletic players around the league. He was even insulted by hecklers as “Irk” Nowitzki, omitting the letter “D” which stands for defense in basketball slang. Dirk even said once he wanted to go back to Germany instead of playing in the NBA
The Mark Cuban Era
In 2000, Billionaire Mark Cuban took over as the Mavericks’ team owner. He restructured the franchise and changed the culture of the team. That proved to be crucial as Nowitzki’s career started to blossom during the Cuban era. He teamed with Steve Nash and Michael Finley and was a runner up on the Most Improved Player award behind Jalen Rose. During the same season, he was chosen to participate in the All-Star Weekend as part of the Sophomore Team and 3 Point Shootout, making him the tallest participant in the All-Star Side Event. Nowitzki was only getting started.
The next season, he and his best friend Steve Nash teamed with Michael Finley to make it to the NBA Playoffs. Dallas finished with a 53-29 record and was seeded 5th in the West. They went on to defeat the tandem of John Stockton and Karl Malone and oust the Utah Jazz in the first round. However, they bowed down to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2nd round.
Before the start of the 2001-02 season, Dirk signed a six-year $90 Million deal with the Mavericks, making him the 2nd highest paid German Athlete after Formula One driver Michael Schumacher. He showed the Mavericks he deserved to get that pay as he stepped up his game and helped them to qualify for the Playoffs the next 4 years. He recieved multiple Player of the Week awards and named All-NBA Team Member. Also, he led the Mavericks to a Western Conference Finals showdown with the San Antonio Spurs during the 2002-03 season. Unfortunately for him, he was not able to finish the series as he got injured in Game 3 and had to rest the rest of the series. The Mavs went on to lose the series to the Spurs.
Before the 2004-2005 Season, Steve Nash then left Dirk to join the Phoenix Suns. With the lineup retooled, they advance to the 2nd round of the NBA Playoffs but bowed down to Nash’s new team, the Phoenix Suns.
Road To The Championship
As the face of the franchise and the end of the “Big 3” era (with Steve Nash and Michael Finley), fans wondered if Dirk would ever get a chance to advance to the NBA Finals. With Dirk at the helm, they surprised the league and got past the Western Conference by sweeping the Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs and the Phoenix Suns. Many thought that the Mavericks would go all the way after they had a 2-0 lead against the Miami Heat. But Dwayne Wade denied Dirk the prestigious NBA Championship as the Heat rallied and went on to win the series 4-2.
Dirk was even more motivated the next season and led the Mavericks to a Western Conference best with 67 wins, which was also a Dallas Mavericks franchise-best record. On the same season, he won the NBA Regular Season MVP award and the Mavs were favorites to come out as Western Conference Champions. Just when everyone thought it would be a “walk in the park” for the Mavs, they were surprised by Baron Davis’ Golden State Warriors. Mavs got upset in the 1st Round, marking the first time a #1 seed lost to a #8 seed in the NBA Playoffs.
The following season several acquisitions were made with names like Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, and Caron Butler added to the lineup. With Coach Rick Carlisle leading the way, Mavericks’ fans were hopeful for another NBA Finals.
Finally, in his 12th year in the NBA, Dirk got a shot for redemption as they advanced to the NBA Finals in a rematch with the Miami Heat. Indeed it was sweet revenge for Dirk as he nailed a game-winning shot in Game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals and tied the series at 2 games apiece. It was all Mavericks from there as Dirk captured the Larry O’Brien Trophy. This was also the first NBA title in the Dallas Mavericks’ franchise history.
The Final Years
After winning the NBA Finals, the NBA went on a lockout and had a shortened season. Dallas lost some core players to Free Agency and never got their rhythm. They got swept the season after they won it all. From there, it was downhill for Dirk’s team but not his career and legacy. On November 2014, he surpassed Hakeem Olajuwon as the Highest Scoring Player born outside the United States. On the same year, he became the 4th NBA Player in History to reach 27,000 points with the same franchise. Before the year ended, he passed Elvin Hayes for 8th place in the NBA All-Time Scoring List. His loyalty to the Mavericks franchise also showed how professional Dirk was during his playing years. Following the 2016-17 season, he exercised his Player Option, taking less money for the team to pursue other Free Agent Big Names. He was also named as an Ambassador for UNICEF.
2018-19 proved to be his last season with the Dallas Mavericks and his NBA Career. In the first game of his last season, he set the record for Most Seasons played with the same team, passing Kobe Bryant’s 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. Dirk was always loyal to the franchise that trusted him. He gained respect not only for his fans in the NBA but the whole Basketball Community. During his last season in the NBA, he was chosen as a special addition to the All-Star Game together with Dwayne Wade. In every game he played this season, he was cheered even in road games.
Celtics’ fans wanted to see him make a basket on the road and on another night Doc Rivers surprised the fans by stopping the game and giving him a standing ovation. These show how much people appreciate what this German did to the sport of basketball. With his sweet shooting, Larry Bird-like type of game, he made a name for himself from being a lanky teenager to a true German Basketball hero and now to one of the best basketball players to ever set foot in the NBA.