Is Dirk Nowitzki the greatest power forward of all time?
You maybe asking yourself “Is that even a question? Yes!” or “No, Tim Duncan is!”. Well, I’m here to sort everything out and settle the dispute once and for all on whether Dirk should be considered as either ONE of the greatest or THE greatest power forward of all time. Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and Kevin Garnett have all had their bright spots as the best power forwards in NBA history.
This discussion ultimately comes down to Tim Duncan and Dirk, for me, as being the best two power forwards of all time.
Let’s start with the fact that Dirk had to completely change the way he played the game of basketball to make it in the NBA. Coming into the league, Dirk was a pretty average player. He was a face-up player who had limited moves around the basket and could occasionally shoot the 3 ball. By his second year in the NBA, Dirk had learned to effectively play with his back to the basket and developed a silky smooth stroke from beyond the arc. His overall field goal percentage went up 6% while his 3 point percentage went from 20.6% to 37.9%. I’d say that’s pretty good. Dirk understood that if he wanted to become a great player in the NBA, he had to revolutionize how he played. So he did.
Now let’s talk about how Dirk Nowitzki changed the power forward position forever. Back in the late 1990’s til the early 2000’s, there were very few big men that were effective from behind the 3 point line or even outside the paint. Dirk changed all of this with his uncanny ability to score from basically anywhere on the court. Nowadays, there is a stretch 4 or 5 on almost every team in the NBA. Some of those players include Kevin Love, Lamarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh, and others. Before Dirk, teams did not view the power forward position as a perimeter big man, but more of a defender, rebounder, or low post offensive threat. Now, they are basically a necessity.
On to Dirk’s numerous personal achievements:
NBA champion (2011)
NBA Finals MVP (2011)
NBA Most Valuable Player (2007)
12× NBA All-Star (2002–2012, 2014)
4× All-NBA First Team (2005–2007, 2009)
5× All-NBA Second Team (2002–2003, 2008, 2010–2011)
3× All-NBA Third Team (2001, 2004, 2012)
50–40–90 club (2007)
NBA Three-Point Shootout champion (2006)
NBA Shooting Stars champion (2010)
Dallas Mavericks all-time leading scorer
FIBA World Cup MVP (2002)
FIBA EuroBasket MVP (2005)
6× Euroscar Award Winner (2002–2006, 2011)
5× All-Europeans Player of the Year (2005–2008, 2011)
2× FIBA Europe Player of the Year (2005, 2011)
Mister Europa Player of the Year (2005)
Silbernes Lorbeerblatt (2011)
German Sports Personality of the Year (2011)
Naismith Legacy Award (2012)
Magic Johnson Award (2014)
Let’s also not forget to mention the fact that he is a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. I’d say that’s quite the resumé.
In the end, this race comes down to Dirk and Tim Duncan. While most people would choose Tim Duncan because he has more rings and MVP awards, I’d still have to go with Dirk. Maybe it is because I’m biased, but when it comes down to it, in my mind, Dirk has faced much greater challenges than Duncan, and he has still come out on top. Tim Duncan had better rosters that had continuity every season. You also have to count in the fact that he the 2nd best NBA head coach in history to guide him and also one of the greatest players of all time (David Robinson) mentoring him. Dirk had to fight the battle of losing in the playoffs and major disappointments that the Mavs had to go through (2006 NBA Finals, 2007 1st round upset, etc).
Dirk still stayed true to the Mavs and showed no matter how many times he got knocked down, he was going to get right back up and give his all. The 2011 playoffs were the greatest example of this. Dallas came in as a heavy underdog even in the first round. After shocking Portland in 6 games, Dirk led the Mavs to a series sweep against Kobe and the Lakers. In the Western Conference Finals, Dirk embarrassed Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook with a 4-1 series victory against the Thunder. In the Finals, Dirk shocked the world and defeated Miami’s Big 3 despite having a sinus infection during a must-win game 4. Not only did Nowitzki lead the Mavericks to their first Championship, he did so with a lackluster roster than the likes of other NBA championship teams.
While this debate may never reach a solid conclusion, I, for one, vote Dirk as the greatest player to ever play the power forward position. He revolutionized the game of basketball and has become one of the best to ever step on the court. He is still going strong and not skipping a beat by averging 21.7 PPG and 6.2 RPG last season. If my argument doesn’t persuade you enough, simply go watch Dirk’s one-legged flamingo fade-away a few times and get back to me.