Dallas Mavericks to unveil Dirk Nowitzki statue on Christmas Day
(AP) — The tributes officially began in 2019 with Dirk Nowitzki Way, a street that was renamed in Dallas to honor the greatest Mavericks player of all time. Then, in January, the Mavs retired his number 41 jersey. Then, in September, Germany retired the number 14 jersey he wore for his country.
Even after scoring 30,000 points, he still doesn’t enjoy all the hoopla.
“It’s been super surreal,” Nowitzki said, “and kind of embarrassing for me.”
Merry Christmas Dirk. Here comes another celebration. Two of them, actually.
On Wednesday, he will be announced as a nominee for the induction class of 2023 by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. And on Sunday, when the Mavs host the Los Angeles Lakers as part of the NBA’s Christmas five-header, the statue of Dirk Nowitzki will be unveiled at American Airlines Arena.
It’ll be the ultimate and incredibly appropriate Christmas gift to arrive on a day featuring a host of international stars who Nowitzki helped pave the way: Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Denver’s Nikola Jokic and his fellow Maverick Luka Doncic. on the big day of the NBA.
“It’s been super fun to watch,” Nowitzki said when asked about the imprint international players are making on the game. “And along the way, if I inspired someone to pick up a basketball or if I motivated a kid to work harder or dream about the NBA, of course, that’s a humbling experience for me… a great lesson in modesty. That makes me proud, for sure.”
It is not a new development. The last four MVPs, in reverse order, Jokic, Jokic, Antetokounmpo, Antetokounmpo, are from Serbia and Greece. It seems reasonable to think that this season’s MVP will also be an international player, with Jokic, Doncic and Embiid likely among the first candidates.
Entering Tuesday, the top five scorers in the NBA are from five different countries: Embiid (Cameroon), Doncic (Slovenia), Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Canada), Antetokounmpo (Greece) and Kevin Durant (USA). .).
That was unthinkable just a few years ago. Over a span of 13 seasons, from 2004-05 to 2016-17, only one international player managed to place in the top five: Nowitzki, who was fourth twice during that period. All other spaces were occupied by an American.
This is what former commissioner David Stern wanted, and why he prioritized making the NBA international.
“It was his vision to truly make the NBA and basketball a global sport,” commissioner Adam Silver said last weekend before a game between Miami and San Antonio in Mexico City. “I started in the league in 1992, shortly before the Barcelona Olympic Games and the Dream Team. We saw the impact it had. Now, looking back on 30 years, 30 years of playing in Mexico City, it’s really happening.”
It’s no coincidence that Doncic, Antetokounmpo, Jokic and Embiid are getting the holiday game treatment. They are brands, big draws globally, and the NBA has increasingly embraced international viewers over the years.
Nowitzki preceded them all, a mop-headed German kid who initially wasn’t sure he wanted to come to the NBA when he was drafted and ended up making the best possible decision for himself and the Mavericks. He played three times at Christmas; Dallas went 2-1 in those games, and Nowitzki averaged 27.3 points.
This year’s Christmas lineup goes like this: Philadelphia in New York first, then the Lakers in Dallas, Milwaukee in Boston, Memphis in defending champion Golden State, then Phoenix in Denver in the Night Cup. Some star power will be lacking, with the Lakers without Anthony Davis and the Warriors without Stephen Curry. It will be the 17th Christmas appearance for LeBron James and the first for the Grizzlies.
“These are the games that everyone grew up watching,” James said last year when asked about Christmas.
The NBA does its part to make sure “everyone” gets to see them; Like the NBA Finals, the Christmas games are shipped to more than 200 countries and territories, with commentary in more than 50 languages.
The German, of course, will be one of them. Nowitzki’s statue depicts his famous one-legged jump shot, a shot that changed the game. He was a unicorn when he came to the United States; a 7-footer who could shoot, pass and dribble and wasn’t just a player with his back to the basket. Now, those abilities are not uncommon to see in big men. They are basically necessary.
Again, it is very appropriate that the statue comes at Christmas. His game was a gift. And with the way it’s been emulated by so many over the past 20 years, it’s a gift that just keeps on giving.
“That’s going to be there forever,” Nowitzki said. “I think that’s what’s amazing, that this statue will be there and my children will grow up with it. That’s what’s really mind-blowing and amazing: that this piece really is for eternity and will be there long, long after I’m gone.”