The NBA Regular Season is over and the playoffs have just started into the first round. One of the most influential players of the last years ended his career last week. Dirk Nowitzki played his last game against the San Antonio Spurs last Thursday. No other foreigner has shaped and changed the NBA as much as Dirk Nowitzki.
Nowitzki was picked by the Milwaukee Bucks in June 1998 in 9th place of the NBA draft.
It was only by exchanging players with the Dallas Mavericks that he ended up with HIS club, to which he remained loyal until the end. In Dallas, DIrk was directly promoted as the German Wunderkind. If he could not meet these expectations in his first season, he improved in his second season in each of his statistics significantly. In his third season followed the first highlight for "Dörk". Together with Steve Nash and Michael Finley, he led the Mavericks into the playoffs for the first time in eleven years. Dirk and his team were from now on permanent guests in the postseason.
The first 'real' highlight awaited him in the 2005/2006 season. Dirk led his Mavericks to the NBA Finals. You met Dwayne Wade and his Miami Heat (DWade also finished his career last week). At this point I take my hat off to the double NBA champion and part of the legendary Banana Boat crew). Although they were already leading 2:0 in the Best of Seven series, the finals were lost 2:4 and the first chance on the championship ring was gone. Spurred on by this final defeat, the Mavs ironed through the regular season one season later. With the best record and the MVP Trophy for Dirk's regular season, they went into the playoffs and Dallas marched straight into the . . . First round out against the Golden State Warriors, who are regarded as blatant outsiders. Dirk Nowitzki became Dirk Nowinski within two years. After such a defeat some stars decided for the Ringchasen, so Dirk stayed in Dallas and renounced during his entire career on approx. 200 million dollars, so that one could pull further stars on land, in order to come closer to the goal of the title. Dirk's performances remained consistently good in the following seasons, but in the playoffs it was no longer enough for the big throw. Until the season 2010/2011...
Nowinski becomes Dirkules
After the Dallas Mavericks always disappointed in the years after the lost finals in the following playoffs and threatened to close the title window, since players like Dirk and also top performer Jason Kidd were over 30, they decided to attack again properly.
Players like Rebound machine Tyson Chandler and Predrag Stojakovic were hired. After the good regular season they went into the playoffs as outsiders due to the previous years. After taking out the Portland Trailblazers in the first lap, the LA Lakers, the Black Mamba team, Kobe Bryant, waited in the second lap. Although the Lakers were last year's champions and therefore not fall fruit at all, they were swept by Dirk and his Mavericks (expression of a 4-0 victory in the playoffs). After this demonstration of power (Off topic to all Bayern fans: such a demonstration of power you also get to feel from Werder the next two games) you sensed in Dallas again the chance for the title. In the Conference Finals the Oklahoma City Thunder around Russel Westbrook, to which Kevin Durant and James "fear the beard" Harden belonged at that time, were eliminated. In the final the 2006 final against the Miami Heat, with its superstar Dwayne Wade, was re-released. In addition to Wade, two other stars played alongside him in this final: Chris Bosh and the King (and best basketball player of all time and also part of the Banana Boat Crew). Sorry MJ, but I have more models of your shoes) personally, LeBron James. Probably there wasn't a single expert who backed Dirk and his Mavericks. And also I, LeBron fan since day one (almost every match report was read at Spox, Probz go out!), didn't believe in it. But to make it short: Dallas won the series 4:2 and became NBA Champion on June 12, 2011 and Dirk was the first German to win the Finals MVP title. Dirk ran directly into the cabin after the victory, to I still remember, how I checked the SAT1 teletext on page 200 the next day in the morning (there was still nothing with "I check everything with the mobile phone after getting up") to see who won the finals. And admittedly my LeBron fan heart was bigger than the Dirk heart at that time, but fuck it! A German has won the NBA title! I don't remember the day of the week, but I still remember the conversation at school with my English teacher Mr Nowak, with whom I discussed the whole series (this is where the best greetings go out to one of the few teachers I have in good memory). On that day Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, probably knew that he had to build Dirk a statue, which he promised in his speech last week.
More than German Wunderkind and Dirkules
From a sporting point of view, Dirk has reached the maximum and legend status. He got a ring and shaped the game like only a few before. He was the first "Big Man" who didn't just work under the basket. It was the prototype of the modern center. With his fadeaway, also called flamingo throw, he created his own throw, which cannot be defended by any player in the world (even scientifically proven). Legends like Charles Barkley say about him that he was one of the best players the league has ever seen.
But besides the sportsman Dirk Nowitzki there is also the man Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk Nowitzki never saw himself as something special. So he once said in an interview, referring to his star status only: "I can throw a bit of the ball into the basket. You never saw anything of his wealth, his cars, his watches or anything else in the social media. Instead, you saw him on a rickety bike on his vacation. When the time allowed, Dirk visited sick children in the local hospitals without organizing a big circus with camera teams or press. He played video games with the children, played guitar for them and just spread some good vibes. During these visits he didn't even ask for the time. Dirk was and is also loved for his humor. So he was never too sorry to make fun of himself. This down-to-earth and humble manner probably makes him one of the most popular players of the NBA, which was noticed on his (unofficial) farewell tour also in the opposing halls. Every hall was filled with cheers as soon as Dirk sunk the ball.
Granted, for me it was Space Jam, NBA 98 on Playstation 1 and my very first Chicago Bulls Starter Cap that brought me to basketball. But for many, Dirk Nowitzki was THE reason to get into basketball. Thanks also to Dirk, basketball in Germany has the value it deserves.
On April 9th, Dirk said what everyone believed, but nobody wanted to hear: He played the last time in front of his audience in Dallas and two days later in San Antonio his last NBA game.
What remains at the end of Dirk's career are more than the numbers of 1,522 games, 31,560 points and a Championship or the 14 All Star Game participations, the MVP Award and Finals MVP Award. Dirk Nowitzki stands for values like ambition, humility, loyalty and gratitude. Perhaps these values are what he stands for, even the greater achievement than the sporting one. I bow to a great personality.
Thank you, Dirk.
Photos: Getty Images, Ronald Martinez, AP Images/Ringer Illustration, dfw.cbslocal.com