I don’t follow men’s professional basketball all that closely these days. Sure, I know who are the game’s top stars: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry.
Oh, yeah! Dirk Nowitzki, too!
Well, I had to move to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex to understand fully how much this guy Nowitzki means to diehard fans of the Dallas Mavericks.
Wow! This big fella got quite a send-off as he retired from the National Basketball Association.
I had little clue as to what he means to this community.
The Dallas Morning News published a 14-page special section on April 14. We came home from a two-week trip to points south and east to find that edition of the paper on our driveway. The section contained stories about how he perfected his fade-away jump shot; it had testimonials from his former coaches and from former rivals; about how he makes an impact on D/FW kids.
NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley calls Nowitzki “the nicest man ever.”
There even was a two-page spread showing a remarkable graphic of every shot he took and made during his more than two decades as a pro basketball player.
Incredible! Nowitzki is thought of as one of the game’s truly good guys. He is devoted to his wife and young children. He spends time visiting seriously ill people in hospitals and he does it all under cover.
He played 21 seasons for the Dallas Mavericks. He came to Big D from Germany, the nation of his birth and where he grew up. You listen to him these days and you detect barely a German accent. He is going to stay in Dallas in his retirement years.
He finished as the No. 6 scorer in NBA history, passing Wilt Chamberlain to reach that ranking. He finished behind legendary figures, too: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
I watched the Mavericks over the years from some distance. Sure I knew that Nowitzki was a great athlete. I knew he could shoot well for a guy who stood 7 feet tall.
I just didn’t appreciate the iconic status he attained during the course of 21 seasons playing basketball.
Holy cow, man!