The moment has finally arrived.
During Dirk Nowitzki’s final home game in 2019, Mark Cuban declared that an enormous statue of Nowitzki will be a permanent fixture outside of the American Airlines Center. Fast forward now, the unveiling will take place Christmas morning, hours before the Dallas Mavericks take on the Los Angeles Lakers at the AAC.
To understand this moment, you have to understand the journey it took to get there. The revolving door of countless teammates who played alongside Nowitzki deserves its own chapter. He sympathized with fans who voiced their frustrations when the team came up short. He worked harder and spent countless hours in the gym when his athleticism was questioned. He was steadfast in the franchise’s vision of championship aspiration despite their shortcomings of signing big names. He readily took blame for repeated playoff disappointments, and credited his teammates and coaches when they tasted glory. He brought stability to an unstable franchise. The Mavericks had 11 consecutive seasons with 50 or more wins, compared to only two prior to Nowitzki’s draft.
The Würzburg, German native has embraced Dallas, TX as his own. His 21 seasons with one franchise remain a rare feature, especially in today’s player-empowerment era. He averaged 20.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 47% FG and is the Mavericks all time scorer, rebounder, blocks, steals, 3-pointers made, free throws made, games played and minutes played. But beyond his loyalty, his impact on the game revolutionized the sport and changed the perception of Euro-born basketball players. The 7’0 power forward torched defenses with his feathery shooting touch from 3-point range. He currently ranks 15th among the All Time 3-point leaders. Just to put it in perspective, the other players ahead of him are guards and are under 7’0. His patented awkward one-legged fadeaway couldn’t be blocked. He is only behind Michael Jordan, making 39 percent FG in with game-tying or go-ahead situations in the final 24 seconds in the playoffs.
He exorcized the 2006 Finals heartbreak by doing the impossible, capturing the franchise’s only championship and Finals MVP defeating the Miami Heat, led by their three-headed monster Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh in 2011.
Perhaps, more than his lengthy on the court milestones, are the ones he achieved off it. Nowitzki, never one to brag about his community work, has made enhancing children’s lives his mission. The countless hours spent with children through the Make-A-Wish foundation, donating and delivering toys, and raising money through his own tennis tournament and softball game, are some of the few things he’s done to impact the Dallas community and beyond.
To have your jersey retired is no small feat that only a couple hundred players have experienced. But the list of NBA players who have their own statue, are few.
Currently NBA legends like Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Michael Jordan, Scottie, Pippen, Magic Johnson, Jerry West, John Stockton, Karl Marlone, Larry Bird, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, and Shaquille O’Neal are among the chosen who have been honored with a statue from their respective teams. Each of those players have transcended the game.
Now, Nowitzki will join that elite list of players who will have their image replicated for all to admire, and for generations to come. Legacy is only as great as those who are inspired by it. His legacy continues to live on through the likes of the Joel Embiid’s, Kevin Durants, and Karl Anthony-Towns, Lauri Markkanens, all big men who have the shooting range and touch that Nowitzki set the precedent for.
It’s only fitting that the franchise Nowitzki sacrificed so much for, rewards him with its highest honor.