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DelVecchio: Dirk says farewell after Hall of Fame Career

| Thursday, April 11, 2019

It took a heartfelt display of career reflection and nostalgia for Dirk Nowitzki to officially confirm what the basketball world has speculated all season: this past season was his last in a Mavericks uniform.

The 7-foot, German-born Nowitzki rose from unknown foreign draft prospect to league MVP and NBA champion while revolutionizing the game with his combination of height and shooting touch. In doing so, he lifted Dallas from its doldrums to perennial contention and league-wide respect. Nowitzki is undoubtedly the greatest European-born player ever and, in my opinion, the second-best international player to ever play the game, behind only Hakeem Olajuwon.

Dirk invented the stretch-five. While it has become commonplace for power forwards (the four position) to add a jump shot to their repertoire and effectively stretch out the defense, no center was even thinking about taking a shot from outside of the paint before Dirk came along. This was a 7-footer who had as pure a shooting stroke as anybody else in the league’s nearly 73-year history, and in his final home game in Dallas, Dirk fittingly became the oldest player to ever score 30 points in a game. Who held the record before Dirk? None other than Michael Jordan.

Dirk played his entire 21-year career as part of the Mavericks organization, topping the list of players who spent their entire careers with one team. In recent years, Father Time has taken hold of Dirk and his aging body, and as a result, the majority of the population has forgotten just how impactful and successful Nowitzki’s career was.

For those who have forgotten, let’s review the German’s accomplishments.

Here’s the full list of players to score more points than Dirk in NBA history: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Michael Jordan.

Furthermore, here’s a list of just some categories in which Dirk is the all-time leader in franchise history: games, minutes played, field goals, 3-point field goals, free throws, offensive, defensive and total rebounds, blocks, points, offensive, defensive and total win shares and value over replacement player (VORP). In terms of games played specifically, Dirk ranks third all-time out of all players with 1,520, sitting behind Robert Parish and Abdul-Jabbar.

In the illustrious history of the NBA, there have only been seven players who have been able to say they are a part of the 50-40-90 club. To join, a player needs to shoot at least 50% from the field, 40% from 3-point range and 90% from the free-throw line.

Dirk Nowitzki was able to add his name to the list during the 2006-2007 NBA season, the same year he won league MVP. He shoot 50.2% from the field, 41.6% on his 3-pointers, and 90.4% from the free throw line. Dirk also averaged 24.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game in that historic campaign.

Dirk has been named to 12 All-NBA teams over the course of his career, and has been selected as an All-Star 14 times. Arguably his greatest feat, however, is his team’s NBA Finals victory over the Miami Heat and their newly formed “Big Three” of LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in 2011. Dirk was named Finals MVP.

Dirk led his team in scoring in five of the six games, playing well during the entire postseason playoff run. He averaged 39.3 minutes over the 21 games and produced an average of 27.7 points per game with seven rebounds. On the road to the title, the Nowitzki-led Mavs beat Portland in six games before sweeping the Lakers in round two. They lost just one game against the Thunder in the Western Conference finals before facing the Miami Heat for the title.

During the finals, Dirk scored at least 21 points in every game. He averaged 26 points per game with 9.7 rebounds and two assists. The 2011 title for Dirk came five years after a crushing 2006 Finals defeat at the hands of Wade, Shaquille O’Neal and the Miami Heat.

This past Tuesday night when Nowitzki played his last game in American Airlines Arena, it also marked the final home game of Wade’s career, and with that, two of the top-20 greatest players in NBA history signed off on unforgettable careers.

I can’t honestly say whether or not there will be a player like Dirk ever again but someday, perhaps one transcendent NBA superstar will have the playoffs of a lifetime and win a championship through individual brilliance like Nowitzki did. Maybe James Harden or Giannis Antetokounmpo will do it this year. But it will take something truly special to match up to Dirk Nowitzki’s magical 2011 run, and his career as a whole.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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