Sports

The Legacy of Dirk Nowitzki

After 21 seasons in the NBA, the Mavericks’ superstar has joined the ranks of the immortal legends.

On June 12, 2011, Dirk and the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA finals 4-2 against the Miami Heat. Dirk brought Dallas it’s first ever NBA Championship, also his first ring.  The super team of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and Lebron James, who would later win three championships together, had scoffed at Dirk and the Mavericks before the series. The whole season Dirk was lighting the league up with his shots and fadeaways. He had led his underdog Dallas Mavericks to a 3rd seed in the Western Conference. Hitting clutch shots to seal games. His journey to the finals was a rough one as he faced many greats through like a 6th young Lamarcus Aldridge, the played the defending champions in the LA Lakers with duo Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant.  Over these playoff games Dirk would hit fadeaways and pull up jumpers. With his athleticism and speed he would easily make his way to the basket. Over 18 years from that championship, Dirk Nowitzki played his final game in the NBA wrapping up 21 seasons playing for the league. In those 21 seasons Dirk stayed loyal to the Mavericks, playing on the squad for his whole career.

Dirk had a late start in basketball at 13 years of age, whereas most players start at 5 or 6. His family was very athletic: his mother, Helga Nowitzki was a player on the West German basketball team and his father, Jörg-Werner, was a handball player that also represented Germany on a national stage. Dirk had naturally become a talented athlete, and at age 16 he played on DJK Würzburg, a German pro team.

He played in the Nike Hoops summit game pitting the American high school recruits against top international players. The American team was predicted to blow out the internationals as they had future NBA players in Rashard Lewis, Erick Barkley, and Jeff Capel. This was not the case as the international team won 104-99 with Dirk’s performance of 33 points and 14 rebounds. This performance made him the clear MVP of the game lead to his professional career in the States.

Dirk’s basketball journey took the next step in 1998, as he was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 9th pick in the first round straight from Germany. Many were skeptical about Dirk as German players already in the league like Detlef Schrempf thought he couldn’t play and was overrated, Schrempf was very wrong.  Dirk was traded from Milwaukee to Dallas directly after the draft. On the Mavericks, he had teammates Jason Kidd and young Canadian star Steve Nash. In Dirk’s first game, he would score 1 point in 16 minutes of play, not the best but he would get a double-double in his next game with 16 points and 12 rebounds. He would only average around 8 points 3 rebounds on 40% shooting in the rest of the season.

As a second-year player, Dirk started to become the player everyone would remember. He averaged 17 points 6 rebounds and 2 assists and 1 block. This would be considered the breakout season in his career, as he started in 81 of 82 games. He would average 21 points 9 rebounds 2 assists 1 steal and 1 block in his 3rd season. For almost his whole career, Dirk averaged close to a double-double.

Dirk’s career helped revolutionize the game. Standing at 7 feet, Dirk would be notorious for hitting the 3 point shot as a “big man”. During this era of basketball, the “big men” (such as power forward and center) played in the high and low post, a very physical position.  Dirk changed the power forward and center position forever as in present time players like Marc Gasol, Kristaps Porzingis, and Lauri Markkanen are “big men” who hit 3’s constantly. Jason Terry Former teammate of Dirk said, “He has transcended the game when you talk about power forwards moving to stretch-4s and big guys shooting, he kinda started that.”

He was also very known for his signature one-legged fadeaway, a variation of the fadeaway of Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. However, Dirk’s one-foot takeoff was harder to guard. He would use one leg to create space between the defender and his shooting arm. “I came up with my own ‘Dream Shake’ I guess – the white version,” Dirk said. Players like Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and Lebron James have adopted his one-legged fadeaway, which remains popular in the NBA today.

Standing at 7 feet and with his shooting ability, Dirk was very dominant. He has racked up many achievements during his time in the NBA such as having a place on the NBA All-Time Points Leader at number 6 with 31,560 points, ahead of great legends like Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan. He also won the 3pt shootout competition showing his signature ability. He has 14 NBA All-Star appearances and 12 All-NBA team selections. Dirk brought Dallas their first NBA championships and his first and only NBA finals MVP in 2011; however, one personal achievement that is arguably on par with the finals MVP is his league MVP. Dirk beat out many players for his MVP such as the previous 2 time MVP and former player Steve Nash and shooting guard Kobe Bryant.

Dirk played in the league for 21 years. Through those 21 years, he was very loyal to the Dallas Mavericks. He is a humble, funny, and conservative person as he never “flexes” the money he has made from playing. He would take less money in his contracts so Dallas could afford better players,  showing how unselfish he was. The league will miss Dirk, Basketball Hall of Famer and big man legend.

flickr/Keith Allison

1 comment on “The Legacy of Dirk Nowitzki

  1. Pingback: How the style of the NBA changed throughout the decades

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