The kid who didn’t believe he belonged in the league has now scored more points than the man on the sport’s logo.
When Dirk Nowitzki stepped off a plane from Germany in July 1998, I was among a throng of media there to meet him. He was 20. He had a bowl haircut, two gold hoop earrings and a fragile psyche. Mavericks’ general manager Don Nelson was convinced he’d just drafted a superstar, but Nowitzki wasn’t so sure.
“Mr. Nelson tells me I’m ready to play in this league,” Nowitzki sheepishly said that day after a workout at the Mavs’ old training facility at the Baylor-Tom Landry Center in Deep Ellum. “Honestly, I’m not so sure.”
At first a homesick kid with doubts about his place among the best basketball players in the world, Nowitzki has risen to one of the greatest players to ever bounce a ball. Already with an MVP, a championship and a place on the Metroplex’s Mount Sportsmore secured, he’s adding to his legend even at the ripe old age of 35.
In last night’s 10-point win over the Washington Wizards at American Airlines Center, Nowitzki took a behind-the-back pass from point guard Gal Mekel late in the third quarter and splashed a 26-point 3-pointer. It gave him more career points than Jerry West, the former Los Angeles Lakers’ legend whose silhouette forms the NBA’s logo.
“Jerry is the man,” Nowitzki said in the post-game locker room. “He is the logo. That says it all. To pass him means … it’s been a great ride so far.”
So far, as in not done yet.
The 7-foot German is already the best-shooting big man in NBA history. He’s now 16th all-time with 25,197 points and has a realistic chance this season – by averaging 20 points per game - of passing Reggie Miller, Kevin Garnett, Alex English, John Havlicek, Dominique Wilkins and Oscar Robertson to move into the Top 10.
No doubt he’s on his way down the mountain of his career. His patented Flamingo Fadeaway doesn’t have the lift it once did. And the rubber sleeve he wore on his left knee last night is a reminder that the grind of six games in nine nights is wearing on his 35-year-old body.
With last year’s failure to make the post-season serving as a fresh carrot, Dirk can still be an All-Star player on a playoff team. More than individual reflections on his Hall-of-Fame career, he’s more excited about the Mavs being 5-3 and – for the first time in six seasons – off to a 4-0 start at home.
But regardless if he’s ready to admit or ever saw it coming, the face of the franchise has now scored more points than the logo of the league.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently writes a sports/guy stuff blog at DFWSportatorium.com and lives in McKinney with his fiancee, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.