Dirk Nowitzki FIRST LOOK: New Statue Immortalizing Dallas Mavs Legend

by 24USATVJan. 6, 2022, 6 a.m. 20
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The Dallas Mavericks put Dirk Nowitzki’s jersey in the American Airlines Center rafters, and the DallasBasketball.com staff got together to talk about their favorite Dirk memories over the years.

With the Dallas Mavericks retiring Dirk Nowitzki’s jersey on Wednesday night - and then it happening on the heels of a Mavs win over the Warriors - the DallasBasketball.com staff got together in advance to discuss their favorite Dirk memories, roundtable style.

But first … a first look at the coming statue of Dirk that will soon sit forever outside the arena …

Mark Cuban with the unveiling of the model ...

Now to the memories …

Fish: A few years ago, I got a text from a server at The Porch, a trendy Dallas hangout. “Dirk’s here having dinner!” he told me excitedly.

Just as excitedly (and foolishly), I announced Nowitzki’s presence at the restaurant.

Good for me; my Twitter account got “traction.”

Bad for me; the next day at practice, Dirk summoned me over for a scolding.

“Fish, of course I know you have a job to do,” Dirk said, then politely explaining that his private life deserves some privacy, and that as a result of me violating that, a line of about 200 people long formed at his table for photos and autographs.

“Can you not do that again, please?”

Dirk’s pat on my shoulder was too forceful. His handshake too firm. His slap to my chest still stings.

Mirroring his incredible on-court career, Dirk, as evidenced in our one-on-one visit, was a gentlemanly bad-ass.

Dalton Trigg: Man, where do I even start? There are so many on-court and off-court Dirk memories I could choose from.

The first Mavs game that I was able to attend live just so happened to be Game 5 of the 2006 Western Conference Finals when Dirk dropped 50 points on the Phoenix Suns. Dirk’s ‘Fever Game’ in Game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals was another classic that I was fortunate enough to witness from the AAC stands. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed attending Dirk’s celebrity baseball game, which was a blast.

But my favorite Dirk memory, by far, happened in late-December of 2016. My wife and I were five months away from tying the knot, and we were in attendance for the Mavs’ game against the Pelicans the day after Christmas.

We had gone to so many of these games in New Orleans, and had spoken with Dirk on so many occasions, that my wife wanted to give him a wedding invitation. So we did, thinking that would be all that came from it.

A few weeks later, we got a big surprise in the mail, as Dirk had personally signed our wedding invitation and shipped it back to us. He could’ve just discarded the invitation when he got out of sight at Smoothie King Center that night, but that’s just not who Dirk is.

“Congrats! All the best!” Dirk wrote before signing his name to the invitation. It was a simple, kind gesture that he didn’t have to go out of his way to do, but he did it anyway, and it’s something I’ll talk about for the rest of my life.

Matt Galatzan: This is an impossible question, so I’m going to have to pick two.

First, it would have to be Dirk passing 30,000 points. I was in the press box, and I’ve never felt a more electric live sports moment in my life. But for me, it wasn’t even just that moment, it was the entire night. It was everything in his career coming to a head.

The other was his domination of Oklahoma City in the 2011 playoffs. We all know which game I’m talking about. There haven’t been many more instances of pure dominance than that in NBA history. It was at that moment that we knew the Mavs had a shot at the title, and that Dirk was the best player on the planet during that playoff run.

Lance Roberson: My favorite Dirk moment isn't what you'd think. If someone answers “winning the 2011 championship,” it's warranted. However, my favorite moment has a personal touch.

Back in 2014, I had a job interview in Uptown Dallas. After the successful interview, my buddy and I went to the Mavs’ corporate office to run an errand for his job.

We couldn't get into the office, but we had to drop off a package there. Thankfully, someone came from the entrance. Who was it? Dirk Nowitzki. As if my day couldn't have gotten any better.

Not only did he shake my hand, but he also opened the door for us to the headquarters. Nowitzki didn't need to give us the time of day, yet he literally extended his hand to two people in need of some help.

Richie Whitt: As the Mavericks beat writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in the mid-1990s, I was consumed with information about the team's pick in the 1998 NBA Draft. The selection - No. 6 overall - would either yank the Mavs out of one of the worst decades authored by any team in the history of professional sports, or solidify the organization's utter irrelevance.

Who better to ask on the eve of the draft than Mavs' grand poohbah Don Nelson at - of all joints - the old Hooters in the West End.

"I'll tell you the God's-honest truth," Nellie told me after a plate of wings and a couple of beers. "We're taking ... the big guy."

And with that, I was convinced Dallas was drafting 6-foot-8, 285-pound Michigan behemoth power forward Robert "Tractor" Traylor. And it did. Sorta.

After negotiating a pre-pick trade with the Milwaukee Bucks to technically draft Traylor but wind up with a German teenager named Dirk Nowitzki, Nellie pulled me aside to explain/gloat.

"We got the bigger one," he joked of his new prized 7-footer. "Trust me, we also got the better one. He's one of kind. You haven't seen anything like him, ever. His potential is off the charts. I'm talking Hall of Fame."

Initially - and commonplace back then - I thought Nellie had again misplaced his marbles.

On June 29, 1998, Dirk made his Dallas debut. He stepped off the plane at DFW Airport from Wurzburg, Germany all of 19 years old. Long, blonde hair parted down the middle all cutesy. Gold hoop dangling from his ear.

But before I could write him off, Dirk dazzled.

Inside the team's old training facility at the Baylor-Tom Landry Center near Deep Ellum, he - still in street clothes and without as much as stretching - swished 3-pointers with each hand. He displayed a smooth, flowing stride leading to effortless dunks. He made 10 consecutive free throws, just for fun. The "Flamingo Fadeway" wasn’t yet born, but just days after the NBA Draft, Nowitzki’s eventual Hall-of-Fame star was already born.

“I’m not sure if I belong here,” Dirk said that day. “I hope I do someday. I guess we’ll see.”

Upon first glance and after witnessing his rookie debut a couple months later, I became a believer that Dirk was a safe bet to finish among the NBA's Top 6 scorers ... in a season ... but never of all-time.

After 21 unprecedented seasons in Dallas, Nowitzki exceeded everyone's expectations. Mine. His. Long-time personal mentor Holger Geschwindner's. And, yep, even Nellie's.

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