Dirk Nowitzki has a legendary NBA career and has cemented his place among the all-time greats in NBA history. For as much as he is beloved by the Mavericks fans and his fellow basketball peers there’s something to say about being admired by your home country.
The people who have watched you grow and blossom at a young age and cheered for you from thousands and thousands of miles away, well that’s what Thursday September 10, 2015 symbolized for the future hall of famer.
Not many know or remember that Nowitzki played for the German national team as far back as 1997 and made his major tournament debut at EuroBasket 1999. Most notable, he was a member of the silver-medal team at the 2002 FIBA Basketball World Cup and Germany’s 2008 Olympic team. In total he played in 86 international tournament games for Germany over 18 years and may have finally played his final game for Germany after losing to Spain 77-76 and ending its EuroBasket 2015 tournament. With the loss and elimination from the tournament Germany will no longer be able to qualify for the 2016 Olympics. Dirk ends his EuroBasket career as the second leading all-time scorer only behind Tony Parker.
In a sight us Mavericks fans will one day experience a couple of years down the line the home crowd in Berlin gave Nowitzki a standing ovation and it brought him to tears. Knowing that this was by all likelihood your last international game ever is something that many of us can’t understand. Before Dirk’s rise to stardom in the NBA basketball was considered a ‘girl’s sport’ in a country where soccer is king from top to bottom. It would be like comparing MLS soccer and NFL football in the U.S, no argument to be made whatsoever. To start from where Dirk began his career in Germany back in 1997 to what the reception is now is leaps and bounds greater than what it was before.
The gripe Mark Cuban and other NBA owners have about their star players playing in international competition is fair and understandable. They take all the risks if their star players get hurt, take for example Paul George last season, he got hurt playing for USA basketball and it really put a damper on the Indiana Pacer’s season.
However, there’s also something to say about a player like Dirk playing for his country and helping to promote the game of basketball in Germany. Like I already mentioned basketball was not very popular a couple of decades ago when Dirk first started playing and it will likely never reach the popularity soccer has in Germany. But at the very least basketball is now a sport that is give more attention to and has become respectable for any male or female to play professionally at a high level. There’s a beauty in Dirk going back to play for Germany in Berlin and have the home crowd in his corner throughout the tournament. They haven’t had the privilege Mavericks fans have had to watch Dirk play at least 50+ times a year on their home court so for Dirk to finish his international play in front of the Berlin crowd is truly special.
Nowitzki finished the game with 10 points and seven rebounds and finished the tournament averaging 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds. Not spectacular numbers by any means but sometimes it’s not always about the numbers and merely watching a legend in his final moments.
Two or three years from now it will be the American Airlines Center filled with fan’s tears and chants such as “Thank you Dirk!” & “We Love you Dirk!” Dirk Nowitzki still has plenty of game left in him but it’s a reminder that Mavs fans everywhere should appreciate every game left in Dirk’s career because he’s the hero the Mavericks deserved.