While the big story around the NBA this offseason has been centered on the “Chosen One” deciding to “come home,” a more humble story was developing for the player who never left.
12-time NBA-All Star Dirk Nowitzki officially signed off on a $25 million deal to remain with the Dallas Mavericks for the next three seasons. Following the last year of a 4-year, $80 million contract, Dirk made it clear that he intended to come back to the Mavs on a discounted price in order to allow the team to go out and get other big time free agents.
Dirk Nowitzki: a selfless superstar
— Bryan Gutierrez (@BallinWithBryan) July 15, 2014
The Mavs courted LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in free agency, but ultimately took a free agent gamble and successfully landed restricted free agent Chandler Parsons, after trading for defensive stalwart, Tyson Chandler. Put those Chandlers Bings together and you have a team ready to compete for another championship.
The best 7-footer to ever play the game began his career with Dallas in 1998 as a skinny, awkward kid out of Wurzburg, Germany with uncertain expectations.
In his first season, he led the Mavericks to a mediocre 40-42 seasons and missed the NBA playoffs after averaging 17.5 points and 6.5 rebounds. He continued to improve every season and successfully led the Mavs to their first-ever NBA Finals trip in 2006, before ultimately losing to the Miami Heat, 4-2.
The bitter end to the season didn’t have Dirk looking for the exit, and he didn’t need to collude with other free agents in order to win an empty championship, in a random town of bandwagon fans.
He instead chose to believe in his city and his owner. In Dirk’s eyes, if he was winning a championship, it was happening in Dallas.
In 2007, Dirk won the league’s Most Valuable Player awards after averaging of 24.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists, while leading the his team to a franchise record 67 wins – but fell short of an NBA championship yet again.
Finally in 2011, Dirk hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy in a parade in front of his town with the same fans that were there with him from the beginning.
In 16 seasons, Dirk has never had an NBA agent. He’s made over $200 million in his career and reportedly left max offers in the $60 million range from the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets to remain with the only franchise he’s even known.
When the free agency period began at midnight on July 1, the Mavs never questioned his desire to compete for another NBA championship in Dallas. Dirk realizes the landscape of the NBA. He desires winning over money. Loyalty over royalty.
Dirk Nowitzki is Dallas Mavericks basketball and when he’s ready to retire, Mavs fans will remember this sacrifice that he took, because the one-legged fadeaway statue in front the American Airlines Center won’t have one ring on it. It will have two.
Photo credit - AP Photo/LM Otero