Dirk Nowitzki is already regarded as the greatest player to pull on a Mavericks jersey and on Wednesday, Jan. 5, his place in franchise history will be immortalized as his No. 41 goes up into the rafters at American Airlines Center.
In 21 seasons, Nowitzki won everything there is to win, lifting the Larry O’Brien trophy in 2011 where he was named Finals MVP, Most Valuable Player of the Year in 2007, 14 All-Star selections, 12 All-NBA selections, including four First Team nods, along with being just one of nine players in NBA history to join the 50-40-90 club (2007).
Ahead of his jersey retirement, the franchise icon looked back on his amazing career, describing his time in Dallas as a “dream” after arriving in the city as a kid way back in 1998 when the Mavs selected him with the No. 9 overall pick in the NBA Draft.
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“You know me, I’m a quiet, modest sort of shy guy, and of course that is a lot of limelight for me,” Nowitzki said on a conference call with international media last month.
“It’s of course 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, I would have said you’re absolutely out of your mind, this is never going to happen. So, it was a dream. 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 and part of this organization.
“It’s a dream come true that now how many people have come up to me after my career and told me that they respect and appreciate what I’ve done for the city, for the sport and for the organization, and of course that makes me super proud.
“The other day I went to a Mavs game and I take a right on Nowitzki Way. That is still surreal. It’s surreal to look at that, to look at my own street, and eventually seeing the jersey under the roof and also one day, I’m not sure when, but see the statue out front. I mean, it makes me super proud of all the work, of course, I put in and how many people have helped me obviously to get to this point.
“I’m super excited about what’s coming in the next few months and years.”
Nowitzki’s loyalty to the franchise has made him an icon in the city, with his 21 seasons as a Maverick an NBA record for the longest tenure entirely with one team, ahead of Kobe Bryant (20 seasons, Lakers), Tim Duncan (19 seasons, Spurs) and Udonis Haslem (19 seasons, Heat).
He is just the fourth player in Mavs history to have their jersey retired, alongside Derek Harper, Brad Davis and Rolando Blackman, an accolade he describes as “special.”
“That’s a special evening. I’m sure they’re going to surprise me with some stuff,” Nowitzki said. “I’m sure there will be some great, great stuff happening and some great surprises, which I don’t even want to know before.
“It’s going to be overwhelming. I am not super emotional off the court, but at stuff like that I tend to get a little emotional, like at the street naming where it took me a couple minutes to get going there. I’m sure it will be overwhelming.
“But it’s going to be so much fun to see everybody, and hopefully everybody can come that’s been part of my career for such a long time and has helped me somewhere down the line. It’s going to be a night of me being extremely grateful to everybody who’s been part of my career.”
Nowitzki’s place in NBA history is already immortalized as one of the best international players to ever grace the league. Earlier this year he was one of just six international players named to the NBA 75 — a list of the 75 greatest players in league history.
“I’m of course incredibly honored that I was named as part of the list,” Nowitzki said. “As you know, it’s super hard to make that list, to pick players out of a list that’s basically had players from whatever, since the league started existing.
“It’s hard to compare players from different eras, so I think it was extremely tough to find 75 guys. I did a little list for myself just to see how it is and how hard it is, and it was extremely, extremely difficult.
“But I’m very humbled and blessed that people would vote for me on that, and so I was very excited. I think I was very proud to be on that list with the best who have ever played in our sport and have represented the NBA. It was a very proud moment when I saw the final list.”
Nowitzki’s glittering career helped blaze a trail for international players, re-define the power forward position with his playing style and above all created a legacy in Dallas, bringing it its first and only NBA championship.
His numbers as a Maverick speak for themself.
- Career averages: 20.7 points, 7.5 rebounds on .471/.380/.879 shooting splits
- Mavericks all-time leader in minutes played with 51,368 (3rd in NBA history)
- Mavericks all-time leader in total points with 31,650 (6th in NBA history)
- Mavericks all-time leader in games played with 1,522 (4th in NBA history)
- Mavericks all-time leader in rebounds with 11,489
- Mavericks all-time leader in blocks with 1,281
- 14-time NBA All-Star
- 12-time All-NBA (4x First-Team, 5x Second Team, 3x Third Team)
- 2011 NBA Champion
- 2011 NBA Finals MVP