With Dirk Nowitzki’s jersey retirement happening tonight, we asked our staff at Mavs Fans For Life what is some of their favorite Nowitzki moments.
Only seven NBA players in history have reached 30,000 points, only one of them was a foreign player, Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki reached the milestone 30,000th point on March 7, 2017 in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers. With 11 minutes left in the second quarter, Nowitzki hit his signature one-legged fadeaway over Larry Nance Jr. to join the historic 30,000 point club. When a timeout was called, the whole arena showered Nowitzki with a standing ovation as his team and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban surrounded Nowitzki with hugs from all sides. He became the sixth player to reach 30,000 points and the third to do it on one team. Just the pure joyous emotion on Nowitzki’s face when he gives his curtain call to the crowd, the crowd’s uproarious excitement when he makes the shot, and the commentators reaction when the 30,000th point goes in makes it one of the most memorable moments in a historic career for Nowitzki. Nowitzki didn’t stop there, he finished his career sixth all time in points with 31,560.
Final Two Farewell Tour Games
Throughout Nowitzki’s career he showed that he was a humble person and player and didn’t need to be the center of attention. That’s why when he decided to announce his retirement the day of the Mavericks final home game of the 2018-2019 season, it didn’t come as a surprise to many that expected him to retire at the end of the season but also knowing that he wouldn’t want a farewell tour throughout his final season.
The Mavericks and Cuban made sure to make his final home game a memorable one. Post-game the Mavericks held a massive retirement ceremony in honor of Nowitzki.The ceremony began with the numbers 41, 21, and 1 lighting up the court at the American Airlines Center. The 41 in reference to his jersey number, the 21 referenced how many years he was part of the Dallas Mavericks, and the 1 was in reference to how he stayed on one team, the Dallas Mavericks, his whole career. In between each time they showed the numbers, they would show accomplishments he achieved throughout his career along with career highlights.
To start the ceremony they brought out five of Nowitzki’s role models and NBA Hall of Famers: Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Larry Bird, Shawn Kemp, and Detlef Schrempf. They then introduced the man of the hour, Nowitzki. Cuban and coach Rick Carlisle then came out and talked about how much Nowitzki meant to them, the Dallas Mavericks organization, and all the fans.
The five Hall of Famers then talked about Nowitzki, how he played, his personality, and what he did for the game of basketball. It was great to see Hall of Famers tell Nowitzki that he himself is a Hall of Famer, especially since he looked up to them. Shawn Marion and Jason Terry, two of Nowitzki’s teammates from the 2011 NBA champion Dallas Mavericks then came out to support him.
Nowitzki then got the mic and spoke to the Dallas crowd. He talked about his career and everything that the Mavericks meant to him as he tried to fight back tears. “Thank you Dirk,” chants rang throughout the arena once he finished. Seeing one of the best, thanking everybody else for the opportunity he was given and getting emotional made the retirement ceremony that much more memorable because he showed he loved his fans and the organization as much as they love him.
Cuban then took the mic and promised Nowitzki that his life lessons will continue to be taught, that he’ll have a job for life, the Mavericks will retire his number, and that they’re going to put up the biggest statue possible of Nowitzki in front of the arena. Cuban then thanked Nowitzki for everything he did for the Mavericks and what he did as a human.
Former president George W. Bush then appeared on the video screen and congratulated Nowitzki on his career. To have a former president congratulate Nowitzki on his career spoke volumes on how he was as a person and a player.
Nowitzki finished the ceremony by letting Dallas know that he’s never leaving. The ceremony as a whole was very emotional and it’s difficult to watch without shedding a tear. It shows how well the Mavericks did Nowitzki’s final home farewell and how much he meant to everybody that’s ever crossed paths with him. Everyone had only good things to say about his personality and his playing style. Nowitzki’s pure humbleness is what made everything that much more emotional and made everything mean that much more to watch, it’s a moment that replays in my head when thinking about Nowitzki.
His final game and the final stop on his “farewell tour” wasn’t in Dallas, it was in San Antonio. The Mavericks biggest rivals, the San Antonio Spurs, honored Nowitzki pregame by showing a tribute video in honor of him with highlights throughout his career and highlights of him against the Spurs. Nowitzki fought back tears as he watched his team’s biggest rival honoring him for everything he did. It really spoke volumes when the Mavericks biggest rivals honored Dallas’ star player, that they had to go to war against for 21 years.
The ceremonies and tributes paid to Nowitzki in his final farewell were very emotional. It sticks with me everything that was said and done in his honor and in turns it brings back all the big moments throughout his career.
2011 NBA Champion
After 13 years in the NBA, Nowitzki reached the ultimate goal of winning the NBA championship. Nowitzki led the 2010-2011 Dallas Mavericks to the NBA Finals as the only All-Star on the team that year. They had to go through a good young Portland Trailblazers team in round 1, where they defeated them in six games. The Mavericks then had to go through the reigning NBA Champions, the Los Angeles Lakers, who were led by Kobe Bryant, but the Mavericks took quick care of them by sweeping them in four. The Mavericks then had to go through the Oklahoma City Thunders, led by the young core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden, but the Mavericks took them down in five. The final foe the Mavericks had to face in the NBA Finals was the big 3 led Miami Heat, consisting of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.
The Mavericks were seen as the underdogs going into these finals, having to face three All-Stars in their prime. For Nowitzki this was a trip back down memory lane to the 2006 NBA Finals, when his Dallas Mavericks had to face the Heat, and the Mavericks fell in 6 games after leading the series 2-0. This was Nowitzki’s time for redemption and he wasn’t going to let it slip again.
The Heat led the series 2-1 heading into game 4 of the Finals and Nowitzki had a massive fever but decided to still play. Pre-game Wade and James made fun of Nowitzki’s fever, little did they know what was to come. Nowitzki went off in the fourth quarter of the game. The Mavericks were trailing by nine points with 10 minutes left in the game and that’s when Nowitzki got locked in. With 14 seconds left in the game. Nowitzki made a layup that put the Mavericks up by 3 and sealed the win for them.
The Mavericks were able to beat the three-headed monster Miami Heat in the last two games of the series to win the Mavericks and Nowitzki’s first ever NBA championship. Nowitzki also took home Finals MVP for all his hard work in the series. All his hard work finally paid off. The part that makes this moment so special and memorable is before the buzzer even went off to end the game, Nowitzki ran to the locker room trying to hold back all his tears of joy of him finally winning the big one and a weight being lifted off his shoulder after trying for so many years.
Nowitzki and the Mavericks had several opportunities to win the NBA championship before 2011 but different speed bumps stopped them each time. In 2003 they made it all the way to the 2003 Western Conference Finals, but after Nowitzki got a knee injury in game 3, it was over for the Mavericks, losing the series 4-2. Then, in 2006 they had to face the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, which consisted of Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, and a cast of former All-Stars. Even though they took the early lead in the series, going up 2-0, they lost the next four, one of five teams to give up a 2-0 lead in the finals.
To see Nowitzki finally succeed after all those years, especially against a monsterous team like the Big 3 Miami Heat, is a memory that I’ll never forget.
2011 NBA Championship
At this point Dirk had made several sacrifices over his 13 years with the Mavericks to win a championship, so it was special to see that goal materialize in 2011. The road that he had to take is still seen as one of the most difficult paths to a championship. That year he had to face a Kobe Bryant led Lakers team, an OKC team with Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and James Harden, and finally a Heat team with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. To make the moment even better Dirk was also named the finals MVP that night.
Spurs Tribute Video to Dirk
In 2019, when the Mavs played the Spurs in San Antonio they displayed a tribute video for Dirk that moved him to tears. This was a favorite moment of mine because it encompassed two main things about Dirk, how much others respect him throughout the league and how much small gestures meant to him.
2007 NBA MVP
In 2007 Dirk won the MVP and this was cool to see because it gave him real recognition for the player that he was. His entire career was impressive but seeing the league solidify that was extremely meaningful. He was the first European player to ever be named MVP of the league as well and this moment also paved the way for other European players.
The Fever Game
We all know the story: the Heat, up 2-1 on the Mavs in the 2011 NBA finals, openly mocked Dirk Nowitzki after it was reported that he was battling a 102 fever. While Nowitzki didn’t shoot the ball great, he still finished with 21 points and 11 boards as the Mavericks went on to win that and the next two games en route to the NBA title. This cemetented Dirk as a legend and left no question about his toughness as the leader of this franchise.
Game 2 of the NBA Finals
To be honest, I have some favorite moments that aren’t from the Finals (Dirks’s game winner against the NY Knicks in 2014 sticks out), but how can this not be on the list? Dirk was not known as a clutch player up to this point in his career for whatever reason, and that narrative went out the window as Dirk led the Mavericks on a 22-5 run to close out and win game 2. Dirk scored the final bucket with 3.6 seconds left, and that was the first time it felt that things were different and we had a chance to win.
Dirk Leaves the Court after winning the Finals
This was one of the most amazing moments in my sports life I can remember. I always wondered why Dirk didn’t stay on the court and celebrate with his teammates initially, and the more and more I rewatch the end of that game, the clearer it becomes to me. Dirk had been through so much in his career up to that point – winning league MVP, the 2004 heartbreak to the Heat, the GSW sweep. The narrative on him was changing and there was talk of trades. But Dirk’s loyalty and perseverance all culminated in that moment as the Mavs became an unlikely winner in a true David. vs Goliath matchup. The emotion that Dirk was overcome with, the necessity for him to have a few seconds alone to really grasp what had just happened is a moment unlike any other and will always reign as my favorite Dirk moment.
Honorable mentions: Dirk’s MVP, floppy hair Dirk, passing Wilt on the all-time scoring list.
To hear Josh Mazur and Landon Thomas talk about their favorite Dirk Nowitzki moments listen to the Mavs Fans For Life Podcast on Apple Podcasts, the top of this article, or anywhere podcasts are available to you. The Mavs Fans For Life Podcast releases every Wednesday Morning.