By Martin Iheke
Sometimes I wonder if people who follow the National Basketball Association, nationally, and to some degree around the Metroplex realize how great of a player Dirk Nowitzki is. When it is all set and done, Dirk might end up being one of the greatest NBA players of all time. This is a guy who came to America in 1998 as a twenty-year old German, after the Mavericks traded for him in the draft, and practically had to learn how to play basketball the way it is played here in the states. He did not play college basketball here so he was already at a bit of a disadvantage trying to get acclimated. It is even harder to get that done when you start off playing in the NBA.
Let me go ahead and list the accomplishments of Dirk since he entered the league. He is an eleven-time NBA All-Star, a four-time All-NBA First Team, a five-time All-NBA Second Team, a three-time All-NBA Third Team, an NBA MVP, an NBA Finals MVP and most importantly an NBA champion. Ten other players beside Dirk in the NBA history have accomplished winning an NBA title, the regular season MVP, Finals MVP and been an all-star ten times. For his international career, he is a nine-time European Player of a Year, a FIBA World Championship MVP, an EuroBasket MVP, led his country to a bronze medal in the 2002 World Championship and silver medal in the 2005 European Championship. This is all according to NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com.
For his career, he is currently ranked #24 all-time in points at 24,134. There is a very good chance he could be over 30,000 points which would put him in the top five all-time. He also currently has 8,734 total rebounds. He has a good shot at having over 10,000 total rebounds. All this can happen if he were to stay healthy and play at least another four seasons. If he were to accomplish this, he would be in a very elite company of scoring over 30,000 points and grabbing over 10,000 total rebounds. He can also finish with over 3,000 assists. He is currently at 2,791. This past season, he became one of three players in NBA history to make over 1,000 three-point shots and block over 1,000 shots. In the 2006-07 season when he won the league’s most valuable player award, he became the fifth member to join the NBA’s exclusive 50-40-90 club which means he shot 50% or better from the field, 40% or better on three-point shots and 90% or better from the free throw line. He is the only player in NBA history to block 100 shots and make 150 3-pointers in a season. This is all according to basketball-reference.com and NBA.com.
There is this so-called myth going around especially before Dirk finally hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy last year that he was un-clutch in the postseason. He has increased his average scoring and rebounding from 22.9 points and 8.3 rebounds in the regular season to 25.9 points and 10.3 rebounds in the playoffs making him one of four guys in the history of the NBA to do this in the postseason. He has had 14 elimination games where he has scored 30 points or more which ties him with Jerry West for most all-time. There is also this myth that Dirk is an awful defender. If anything he is more of an above-average defender. He will never be a great defender because his lateral movement is not very good but that does not keep him from playing solid defense, especially team defense when the game is on the line. He is currently eighth amongst active players for defensive win shares at 49.12. This is all according to basketball-reference.com.
Dirk’s game is versatile, very unique and transcendent. Before him, the NBA has never seen a seven-footer have such great range shooting the basketball the way he does. He can draw bigger defenders away from the basket with his outside shooting or could put the ball on the floor and drive to the hoop. He also can post up smaller defenders making him a matchup nightmare around the league. Because of this, his teammates are significant better when they are on the court with him and it shows with the Mavericks making the playoffs twelve straight seasons and winning fifty games or more eleven straight seasons. His teams have won sixty games or more three times, winning the division twice, going to the NBA Finals twice and winning a title. I believe he is the only all-star on a team that has won sixty games or more go to the NBA Finals in league history.
When he finally won the title in 2011, again he was the only all-star on the team. He has not had a second superstar or all-star to play along with him since he entered his prime in 2004. This just blows my mind. It is very difficult to win an NBA championship with at least two superstars let alone one. Dirk has done it once and should have done it twice. If Dirk were to have played with someone like Kobe or LeBron, he would have at least three or more rings instead of one. His game would compliment any other star out there. It is probably why head coach Rick Carlisle came out and said he believes Dirk is a top ten player all-time. Carlisle knows greatness when he sees it. He was teammates with Larry Bird on those great Boston Celtics teams from the 1980s so that is great praise there. Right now, I do not think Dirk is top ten all-time, but if he wins another ring and can reach 30,000 points, 3,000 assists and collect 10,000 total rebounds it would really be hard to leave him out of the discussion for top ten all-time.