If anyone qualifies as Mr. Maverick, it’s NBA legend Dirk Nowitzki. The 7-foot German forward who revolutionized the way big men are viewed played all 21 of his NBA seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, a record for any player with a single team. Well before he called it quits, we knew Nowitzki’s jersey retirement was only a matter of time away, and on Wednesday night the franchise made it official.
Following the Mavericks’ 99-82 win over the Golden State Warriors in Dallas, the Mavericks held a ceremony for Nowitzki’s jersey retirement that included speeches from owner Mark Cuban, former teammate and current Mavs head coach Jason Kidd, and of course Nowitzki himself. Afterward, Nowitzki became the fourth Maverick to have his number retired by the franchise when his No. 41 jersey was hoisted to the rafters.
The 2006-07 NBA MVP, Nowitzki led the Mavericks to their only title in 2010-11. He earned Finals MVP honors by averaging 26 points and 9.7 rebounds on 37 percent 3-point shooting while defeating LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat.
“Thank you guys from the bottom of my heart for making this journey incredible,” Nowitzki said during the ceremony. “And thank you for taking in a long, lanky kid over 20 years ago and making him one of your own. I’ll be always grateful.”
Cuban also unveiled a smaller version of the statue honoring Nowitzki that will live outside American Airlines Center in Dallas. It depicts Nowitzki shooting his signature, unstoppable one-legged fadeaway, one of the main reasons why he was able to rack up 31,560 career points, the sixth-best total in NBA history.
Kidd got one of the biggest laughs of the night when he joked that the 43-year-old Nowitzki might be offered a 10-day contract this season, given the current NBA climate with health and safety protocols.
Overall, it was a fitting tribute to one of the best to ever play, and Nowitzki’s importance to not only the city of Dallas but also the game of basketball was never more apparent. With the frequency that players change teams these days, it’s hard to imagine any NBA player logging 20-plus seasons with the same franchise, so Nowitzki may truly end up being one of a kind.
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