By Conrad Hoyt
Published: March 27th, 2019
On March 19, 2019, Dirk Nowitzki passed Wilt Chamberlain for sixth place on the NBA all-time scoring list. With his patented high-arcing jump shot, he etched his name further into the NBA history books.
Nowitzki is generally recognized as the greatest European basketball player of all time. Now in his 21st NBA season, all for the same team in the Dallas Mavericks, Nowitzki is expected to retire after this season. He hasn’t officially announced his retirement, but the way the league and other teams have treated him, points to the conclusion that this will most likely be the final season for #41.
When asked about retirement, his response was that he wants to be there for the young guys next year, but will see how he feels at the end of the season in terms of health. However, I think it is fair to say, watching Nowitzki run up and down the court is painful enough for the viewer, so the betting money would be that he hangs it up.
Nowitzki has averaged 22.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.6 assists over his career, with a three-point percentage over 38 percent. He was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in the 2006/2007 season and won a championship in 2011 along with the Finals MVP.
Nowitzki will not just be remembered for his numbers and accomplishments; his impact and style of play is perhaps most consequential. There were several players in the history of the NBA who changed the entire complexion of the league. Chamberlain, who Nowitzki just passed on the scoring list, changed several NBA rules because he was too strong, forceful and dominant. Stephen Curry has led the three-point revolution, where the court is much wider and any shot from any distance can be considered a good shot, depending on who is taking it. When thinking about game changers, one player is often left out: Nowitzki himself.
Before Nowitzki, there was no seven-footer who could shoot the three well. The height at which he shoots the basketball makes it virtually un-guardable, not to mention, his nimble footwork and patented fade-away all adding up to a unique and exceptional arsenal. Nowitzki has never been a great defender, so the power forward spot was perfect for him. For the Mavericks, it worked perfectly, and other teams took note.
Nowitzki’s ability to shoot the long ball meant the opposing player would have to be locked onto him all night, thereby, clearing the lane for the center or guards or wings to drive. Without Nowitzki, are we sure we would have the same Kevin Durant, a Kristaps Porzingis, a Kevin Love?
Though it is clear he is playing the mentor role this season more than anything else, Nowitzki still knows how to stroke the three. Chamberlain is widely regarded as the most dominant NBA player of all time (the only comparison is Shaquille O’Neal), and for Nowitzki to pass him is a tremendous accomplishment.
This season, the Dallas Mavericks made a trade with the New York Knicks to acquire Kristaps Porzingis, a player that has been compared to Nowitzki since he was drafted. It will be fun to see how Porzingis’ game is affected by his close proximity and mentorship from Nowitzki, especially if he decides to come back for one more year.
The impact of Nowitzki on the NBA cannot be overstated. His unique skill set helped revolutionize the NBA game and started to lead into the analytics-driven, three-point-centric brand of basketball we are accustomed to today.
Nowitzki, already a jovial person, will surely look at his career with proud eyes. The icing on the cake of a tremendously successful year was passing the great Chamberlain for sixth on the NBA scoring list, and who knows, maybe Nowitzki isn’t even done yet. Whether or not he comes back for one more year, I say to Dirk, from NBA fans everywhere, thank you for the memories.