The Dallas Mavericks visited the Staples Center to face the Los Angeles Clippers last week, with the Clippers eventually beating the Mavericks 121-112. But when the game had about 10 seconds left, Clippers coach Doc Rivers did something amazing - he called a timeout, grabbed a mic and ensured that the crowd gave Nowitzki a last well-deserved standing ovation at the Staples Center. Nowitzki too got all emotional and appreciated Doc and the crowd for this heart-warming moment.
It has not been announced oficially, but this season seems to be the end for Mavericks veteran, and the entire NBA has showered Nowitzki with love and affection for his contribution to the game over his 21-year career.
The legacy that he leaves behind in Dallas, is going to go unmatched for decades to come. He has been the face of Mavericks for a long time and has led the team in almost every statistical category.
In his legendary career, the German has been to the All-Star game 13 times, been named to the All-NBA team 12 times, was named the league's Most Valuable Player in 2007. In 2011 he brought a maiden NBA championship to Dallas as well as winning the Finals MVP.
With the match against Clippers, he became the fourth player in NBA history to have played 1,500 career games. He sits at the seventh spot for all-time top scorers and will probably move to the sixth spot overtaking Wilt Chamberlain before the season ends.
Such is the greatness of the 'German Racecar' or the 'Bavarian Bomber' as he is often called - that Dirk Nowitzki has redefined the role of power forward in shooting beyond the arc. He signature step-back-single-legged jumper and many skilful moves throughout his career will be cherished in the years to come.
Let's pick some of such awe-inspiring moments from the vault and re-live the era of the Big-D.
#5 The infamous Tracy McGrady vs Dirk Nowitzki Duel
This match played on Dec 2, 2004, was a regular season game which had the intensity of a playoff Game 7, where both the teams were going at each other with all they got.
This Mavericks performance and the OT win is considered one of the best in their history but the highlight of the match-up was the clash between two amazing performers the game has ever seen - the Mavs' young star Dirk Nowitzki and the Rockets' new acquired scorer Tracy McGrady who won the previous year's best scorer.
At half-time the Mavs were up 56-51, Dirk had 22 points and Tracy McGrady had 25. Dirk scored 10 straight points in OT and the Mavs won 113-106. Dirk scored 53 points in total, going 15 for 32 from the field, while McGrady put a brilliant 48 points performance scoring 19 of 36 attempts from the field.
“There are nights when the basket seems a lot bigger than it is. There are nights when you can’t even make the easiest layups,” Nowitzki said. “I loved the way I started right away. I felt it was going to be a good night, and I stayed aggressive.”
#2 Bittersweet MVP season (2006-07)
Winning the Most Valuable Player of the league requires a player coming out on a nightly basis and lay it all on the court. It requires a player who is ready to apply all his heart and mind to the game, requires the player to be better, more consistent and more responsible than the other 300 plus players in the league.
Dirk left no stone unturned in the 2006-07 season after missing out on the honour in two earlier seasons to former teammate and friend Steve Nash by slim margins.
He led the Mavericks to the best record (67-15) in the NBA, scored 1,138 points in his ninth NBA season, averaging team highs of 24.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and a career-best 3.4 assists while setting career-highs in field goal percentage (.502), three-point field goal percentage (.416) to become the first European-born player to win the NBA MVP award.
This season featured his sixth straight All-Star appearance and he was named to the All-NBA First Team for the third consecutive year.
This didn't come easy and surely didn't come too early. Dirk was named the MVP after the Mavericks suffered a first-round upset to the eighth seed Golden State Warriors. It was just the third time in NBA history that a No.1 seed lost to a No.8 seed. The playoffs exit was a heartbreak to the Dallas franchise but Dirk winning the MVP meant a big deal.
In an interview Dirk mentioned- "When I think about my MVP season, I will also think about the loss to Golden State. But winning the award as Most Valuable Player of the NBA is just a huge honor. I didn't really realize how big it was until Mark Cuban had tears in his eyes at the award ceremony."
#3 2001 WC Semifinals Game 4: Tooth knocked out and comeback
Dallas made its first playoff appearance in 11 years and upturned the Utah Jazz starring Karl Malone and John Stockton, 3-2 in the first round. Then came the mighty Spurs who would take a 3-0 lead. Dirk had scored just 43 points in the first three games.
With one game away from exiting the playoffs, Game 4 saw a great comeback by Dirk Nowitzki coming back from food poisoning, losing a tooth with 4:52 to play and scoring 30 points with decisive game winning plays. The Mavericks beat the Spurs 112-108 and avoided elimination.
Dirk has a hard memory of the game. In an interview he mentioned “We played hard in Game 4 and were able to steal one. The game we stole here, I came back in [after getting a tooth knocked out by a Terry Porter elbow] and we won the game. Then in Game 5, they were just so good defensively. Whatever we tried, they had counters. They were long in there with those two 7-footers. I mean, they were good.”
#2 Reached 30,000 points on March 3, 2017
Twenty points was all Dirk needed when he entered the game against the Los Angeles Lakers to reach the legendary 30,000 points mark. The NBA has seen only seven players achieve that feat.
In the second quarter, with over 10 minutes left, the crowd was going frenzied to witness Dirk's moment. He launched a baseline jumper over Larry Nance Jr., and as it went in, the entire American Airlines Center erupted in cheers.
A minute later, he hit a three-pointer and as the Lakers called for a timeout, his Mavs teammates and owner Mark Cuban mobbed him and the crowd gave him a hysterical standing ovation. He finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds in the Mavs' 122-111 victory.
"It's been sort of surreal -- 30,000 is amazing, a lot of points." Nowitzki said. "Obviously, every milestone makes you reflect a little bit, reflect on people who helped you, been with you all this way, from all the coaches and Cuban and all the teammates I had, the fans that went with me through thick and thin. It's been an amazing ride, and hopefully a couple of more baskets are coming and then it's time to ride off into the sunset."
#1 NBA Finals 2011: Game 2 comeback and game winning layup
In Game 1 of the NBA Finals in 2011, Nowitzki suffered a torn tendon on the middle finger of his non-shooting arm when he tried to steal the ball from Chris Bosh. This could have been the end of the season for Dirk but he kept playing on the way to what would eventually become the Dallas Mavericks' maiden NBA championship.
In Game 2, the Mavs overcame a 15 points deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Miami Heat, 95-93 to tie the series one game apiece. Capping a furious rally by scoring Dallas' final nine points, Nowitzki made two late baskets left-handed, as he finished with 24 points. After a timeout, Jason Kidd held the ball while the clock ran down. He passed the ball to Dirk who drove, spun to the left and made the game winning layup.
The Mavericks went on to win the series, 4-2 to lift the 2011 NBA Championship. Dirk Nowitzki was crowned the Finals MVP, becoming the second European to win the award after Tony Parker (in 2007) and the first German player to do so. In this campaign he averaged 26.0 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists.