“He’s one of the top 12 players in the history of the game. This is only further evidence of it,” Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said following Tuesday’s 95-83 victory over Utah.
The “he” being referred to here is Dirk Nowitzki. And regardless whether the ninth overall pick in the 1998 draft indeed falls in your personal top 12, one truth remains. Nowitzki has been transcendent. On a night his former teammate and close friend Steve Nash passed Mark Jackson for third in all-time assists, Dirk shot past Oscar Robertson for tenth on the all-time scoring list with 26,714. Allow that to marinate for a moment.
Only nine players in the history of basketball have scored more points than Nowitzki. He’s spent his entire career with one franchise, whom he vows to resign with this summer. He helped forever alter the perception and skill set of what a seven footer in the NBA resembles. He’s a former league MVP and Finals MVP. His career shooting splits leave him in the fringe 50-40-90 club at 47.6-38.2-87.9, otherwise known as an all-time prolific marksman. He’s also, currently, the GOAT European NBA player unless Tony Parker shifts history in his favor over the next few seasons. And this year alone The Big Volkswagen passed Jerry West, Kevin Garnett, Reggie Miller, Alex English and John Havlicek on the career points list.
One day in the future I’ll pen a piece on players who I grew to loathe, yet ultimately respect to no end – guys like Dirk and Paul Pierce.* For now, however, appreciate a guy like Nowitzki while we still can. Who knows, too, pending he plays long enough, Nowitkzi could become only the sixth player in history with 30,000 points.
Carlisle might have been overselling the best player he’s ever coached. But if he was, it damn sure wasn’t by much.
Bonus: As for a trip down nostalgia boulevard, watch this video of Young Dirk in 1998 as he details his adaptation process to life in America.
* – To be honest, I never “loathed” Dirk. I’m quite fond of him actually. It’s just…just…2011 Finals. And for Pierce, Lord knows do I despise that guy, and Lord also knows that fake wheelchair stunt in the ’08 Finals will never sit right in my eyes, but dude is cold as hell. No opposing player in the history of sports has ever broken my heart as many times as Paul Pierce.