One day Mavericks fans. One day remains until pre-season tip-off. While the number #41 has been engraved into Mavericks fans brains forever, he will always be the best Maverick of all time. He has stuck with this franchise through the good times and bad. He came from overseas a young boy, and has turned himself into a legend, a Champion, and a future Hall of Famer. He has arguably the most un-guardable shot in the history of the NBA, and work ethic that can’t be beat. Ladies and gentlmen, Mavs fans everywhere, I give you Dirk Werner Nowitzki.
Nowitzki was born in Wurzburg, Germany. He came from a very athletic family, and despite having in interest in tennis and handball, his height caught the attention of a former German basketball player, Holger Geschwinder. He took Nowitzki under his wing, and put him through a very different type of training regimen.
Nowitzki played for multiple German basketball squads. He was an impact player for a couple of years, but never really caught any attention back in the States. That was until 1997, when he played in a Nike event with NBA Legends, Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen. He sure caught Barkley’s attention, which you can see in the video below.
While the hopes of a revitalized franchise was in the near future, it wouldn’t be the 1998-1999 season. Nowitzki struggled with the faster and more physical NBA league, and was often called Irk, instead of Dirk, because players thought he lacked the defense in his game.
“I was so frustrated I even contemplated going back to Germany”
After the nightmarish rookie season, the 1999-2000 season brought a new sheriff to town. Mark Cuban purchased the Mavericks franchise for $280 million. Cuban brought to the Mavericks an energy that would quickly be displayed in their effort on the hard wood. Nowitzki’s second season was a major improvement over his first. He was runner up in the NBA Most Improved Player Award, and averaged 17 points and 6 rebounds per game. Despite the successful individual accolades, the Mavericks failed to reach the playoffs yet again. The Mavericks front office knew they had the right ingredients, so it was only a matter of time.
The 2000-2001 season was the year that marked the Mavericks new found relevance in the NBA elite. Nowitzki continued his stellar play along with Finley, but it was Dirk’s best buddy Steve Nash who began to find his niche with the team. The new “Big Three” in Dallas led the Mavericks to a 53-29 regular season record, and their first playoff appearance since 1990. The Mavericks would defeat the Utah Jazz in the opening round, but would eventually lose to the San Antonio Spurs. One thing was for sure. The Dallas Mavericks weren’t going to be going anywhere. They were legit and would be around for a long time.
Dirk and the “Big Three” would spend a couple more seasons together, but could never get over the proverbial hump. They would continue to win but would fall short each and every season. In the summer of 2004, Steve Nash signed with the Phoenix Suns. A year later, the Mavericks had to waive Finley to avoid luxury taxes. Dirk was now the lone member left of the “Big Three”.
The 2005-2006 season would be historic for the Mavericks. Dirk continued his All-Star play and led the team to 60 wins and the longest playoff run in the history of the franchise. They stormed through the Western Conference, and found themselves facing Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, and the Miami Heat. The Mavericks jumped out to a 2-0 series lead, and would never win another game, falling to the Heat in 6 games. For a competitor like Nowitzki, it was a crushing blow that many feared he would never overcome.
The 2006-2007 season would bring both good and bad to Nowitzki and the Mavericks. They would win a franchise best 67 games, and cruise to the #1 seed in the Western Conference. Unfortunately, those playoffs would be cut short, because Dallas would become the first #1 seed to lose to an #8 seed(Golden State Warriors) in the history of the NBA. Dirk would still be honored with the NBA Most Valuable Player Award, but it paled in comparison to what had just happened in the playoffs.
The Mavericks would tinker around with their roster for a few more years. Leading up the 2010-2011 season, the Mavericks had now acquired some pieces that could make a run. With guys like Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, and Tyson Chandler, the Mavericks seemed poised to prove doubters wrong. They finished the season the #3 seed in the Western Conference, where many NBA analysts picked them to lose in the 1st round to the Portland Trail Blazers. That would never happen. Nowitzki was playing at a Hall of Fame level, and led the Mavericks past Portland, Los Angeles, and Oklahoma City to win the Western Conference Finals. They would once again find themselves in the NBA Finals taking on the much hated Miami Heat. Dwyane Wade would still be a member, but this time was teamed up with Chris Bosh and Lebron James.
Nowitzki and the Mavericks found themselves in a 1-0 hole in Game 2, and were trailing by 15 points in the 4th. The Mavericks stormed back and won, capitalized with a Nowitzki drive by finger roll to close the game out. The Mavericks would eventually take out the Heat in Miami in Game 6, and win their 1st ever NBA Championship. Nowitzki was crowned the Finals MVP. He had now established himself a true NBA Legend in every sense of the word.
Following the historic season was the NBA lockout. The Mavericks had to retool and get rid of some of the players that made up the championship roster. They would make the playoffs, but get bounced by Oklahoma City in the 1st round.
Last season, the Mavericks once again found themselves with a completely new roster. Dirk had to get off-season surgery, which forced him to miss 27 games. The Mavericks battled throughout the season, but finished 42-42, and missed the playoffs for the 1st time since 2000.
The Dallas Mavericks head into the 2013-2014 season with fresh faces, but it should be a team that compliments Nowitzki quite well. What is in store for the remainder of Nowitzki’s career is unknown, but one thing is for sure…he’s a rare breed of NBA player. He doesn’t look to join the super teams, or try to market himself. He’s a man who plays for his city, his country, and does it with dignity and grace. He’s a true legend in every sense of the word. He is Dirk Nowitzki. All Star. Champion. Hall of Famer.