NBA: Dirk Nowitzki rides off from Dallas after 21 seasons
The conclusion to the 2018-2019 NBA season has not only brought the fans competitive basketball and interesting playoff seeding scenarios, but farewells to some of the most incredible NBA careers in the last two decades.
Millions have been tuning in to see the 'farewell tours' of guys like Dwyane Wade and Channing Frye, not actually realising that they’ve been doing the same unconsciously for another NBA star.
Almost immediately after Wade played his final home game at American Airlines Arena, 21-year veteran and career long Dallas Maverick Dirk Nowitzki announced that he will retire from the NBA following the team’s 120-109 win over the Phoenix Suns. The decision comes after many NBA fans spent the entire year wondering if Nowitzki would hang it up after this season, as he wasn’t very committal either way whenever he was asked.
Nevertheless, the reaction from the Dallas crowd was that of disbelief but filled with grateful uproar and applause. For all that Nowitzki has accomplished with the Mavericks in his 21 seasons, the response was well merited.
Dirk Nowitzki entered the 1998 NBA Draft as a top prospect from Germany and was selected ninth overall by the Milwaukee Bucks, who immediately traded to him to the Dallas Mavericks. At the time, he had been playing in Germany and was admired for his scoring ability, versatility, and most of all his infamous one-leg fadeaway jump shot that would become his staple in the NBA.
Today he’s known as one of the greatest power forwards to ever touch a basketball, but that wasn’t always the case for Nowitzki.
Even though he stood at a menacing seven feet tall, Nowitzki lacked the athleticism of other power forwards in the league and his stats weren’t pretty for his first season. Of course, the NBA lockout in the 1998-99 season didn’t help him find consistency either.
Things would improve for Nowitzki though as he continued into the succeeding seasons. The Mavericks brass would undergo a change of hands and with that came changes to Nowitzki’s game. Surrounded by guys like Michael Finley and Shawn Bradley, and with increased tutelage from his coach, Nowitzki’s stats jumped to close to 20 points per game and seven rebounds per game in his second season, which would rise to 25 and 10 in the 2002-2003 season.
Additionally, the Mavericks’ season records would improve tremendously, and they would become perennial playoff participants, with deep runs each season until their first NBA Finals appearance in 2005-06. Despite good players like Steve Nash being traded away, the Mavericks kept a strong offensive and defensive presence that helped them creep closer to championship success with Nowitzki.
The 2005-06 NBA Finals would not end well for Dallas, as the 60-win team, with a double-double averaging power forward gaining numerous awards and recognitions, would fall 4-2 to the Miami Heat in what was fellow retiree Dwayne Wade’s first NBA championship.
In the 2010-11 season, the Dallas Mavericks' teeter-tottering playoff run would stop, and Dirk Nowitzki would finally lead them to their first NBA championship and one of his greatest accomplishments in his 21-year career.
Accompanied by his new teammate and big man Tyson Chandler, Dirk Nowitzki would average 23 points, seven rebounds, and three assists, leading the Mavericks past some of the league’s best teams, including the then-two-time defending champion LA Lakers, the OKC Thunder, and the Miami Heat in the first year of their Big 3. As a result of his performance, Nowitzki was awarded the NBA Finals MVP to add to his list of achievements.
The remainder of Nowitzki’s career would never see the pinnacle of the NBA Finals again, although he would remain the centerpiece of the franchise and continue to wow basketball fans with his abilities. As the years went by, what was shocking for fans was his health, as Nowitzki would never miss a big chunk of games for the rest of his career, as age wasn’t really a factor in his game.
The Dallas Mavericks would continue to make the playoffs each year, except for 2013, and until 2017, since when they’ve missed out the last few seasons. However, the famous one-legged fadeaway jump shot continued to look as good as ever and it helped him smash countless scoring records, amongst others that he broke in minutes played and rebounds made.
On the international side of things, Dirk won numerous FIBA and German based sports awards during the 2011 championship season, to go along with the two medals and other awards he received as a member of the German international team.
Now, after 21 seasons with the same team, the second player to do this since Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki has decided that this past season will be his last and he will join Dwayne Wade in the retirement club.
An NBA champion, NBA Finals MVP, NBA MVP, in 2007, 14-time All Star, 12-time All-NBA team member, top-10 NBA career scorer, bronze and silver medal winner, and European basketball history maker, Dirk Nowitzki has been one of the greatest big man talents to play in the NBA and a representation of loyalty to a team.
Like Dwayne Wade, he came into the league and helped to change an NBA franchise and put them into the NBA history books. He’s played like a respectable veteran basketball player and represented his country, both in the NBA and FIBA, well. Many players and fans have tried to imitate his famous fadeaway jump shot, as it was as cool as shooting paper into a trash basket and saying “Kobe”.
Despite being a Texas rival, the San Antonio Spurs even made sure to show their fan-like appreciation for Nowitzki through a special commemorative video during the player announcements on Wednesday night.
The NBA, and certainly the Mavericks, will feel different without Nowitzki’s presence, but his legacy to the team and the game will not be forgotten anytime soon. It wouldn’t be surprising if Mark Cuban decides to retire Nowitzki’s jersey in the future.
Thank you, Dirk, we all can’t wait for the Hall of Fame ceremony.