Dirk Nowitzki made his mark on the NBA as one of the premier players in the game not only of his era but of all time. He is a sure-fire Hall of Famer as soon as he is eligible as he put in a 21-year shift with the Dallas Mavericks to go down as the greatest player in the history of the franchise.
Nowitzki was born in the West German town of Wurzburg in 1978. Wurzburg is not precisely a hotbed of NBA talent, but as the son of a professional basketball playing mother and an international handball playing father, the young Dirk certainly had the athletic ability in his genes.
Dirk also had height on his side from an early age, often standing a foot or more above his peers as he excelled as a handball and tennis player. His decision to join the local DJK Wurzburg team as a 15-year-old set Nowitzki on a path that would see him become one of the most recognizable athletes on both sides of the Atlantic.
What people grew to love about Dirk, his carefree and fun attitude off the court playing in stark contrast to his talent and focus on it, was apparent even at this age. It is impossible to bottle whatever combination of genes and outside factors it takes to make a player a star, but have no doubt about it, Dirk was always going to be a star.
Progressing through the ranks at his local club, this premier player had to spend a year doing compulsory military service alongside advancing his basketball career. At 6-foot-11, with unnatural quickness and ball handling for a player of that size, Nowitzki started to have his progress noted by those outside of his native Germany.
Playing in the Nike “Hoop Heroes Tour,” Nowitzki was placed in a showpiece match against NBA stars like Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley. His dunk over Barkley was the most impressive play of the entire game, and it was at that moment it became apparent his future, and his path to becoming a premier player was to be through the NBA.
A prep-to-pro player back when that was allowed, Nowitzki passed up scholarship offers across the country to declare for the NBA. Selected with the ninth overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks, the future 14-time NBA All-Star and over 31,500 points scored was traded to Dallas for a combination of Robert Traylor and Pat Garrity. This is a trade that will live long as one of the greatest draft-day steals in the history of the game.
Dirk’s list of highlights and awards is as long as they come. The 2011 NBA Champion won the Finals MVP award that year and the regular season MVP crown in 2007. Nowitzki worked his way into being one of the most versatile bigs ever to play the game, and he is known for his scoring ability, and a fadeaway jump shot so picture perfect it should be trademarked.
His place among the many legends that make up the sporting scene in Dallas, the likes of Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith, is secure. A street running by the American Airlines Center has been named Nowitzki Way, a fitting tribute for this premier player who won so many games for the Mavericks inside that building during his storied career.
Story by Steve Wright