Dirk Nowitzki finally announced he is, indeed, retiring from the NBA after 21 seasons in Dallas with the Mavericks on Tuesday night during a tremendous retirement celebration.
The future Hall of Famer became the oldest player in league history to score 30 points in a game, leading Dallas to a win over the Suns (while Jamal Crawford became the oldest player to score 50), and afterwards everyone stayed on the court to honor the legend. Joining Rick Carlisle and Mark Cuban on the floor for the ceremony were the five players Dirk considers as his idols and inspirations: Detlef Schrempf, Shawn Kemp, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, and Charles Barkley.
Each player took some time to pay tribute to Dirk, with all of them highlighting how great a person he is off the court to match the incredible player he is on it. They also all had a funny story to tell about either playing against Dirk or one of the first times they met him, but unsurprisingly Barkley had one of the best stories.
Chuck talked about playing against an 18-year-old Dirk in an exhibition in Germany and getting lit up by the young Nowitzki, and then trying to recruit him to Auburn after the game.
The rest of the legends also offered great tributes, with Scottie Pippen complimenting the way he played the game and saying he served as an inspiration for him as much as he inspired Dirk. Larry Bird joked he was 15 when Dirk came into the league and now he’s 62, before also lauding how Nowitzki left the game better than when he started playing. Kemp explained how he tried and failed to block Dirk’s patented fadeaway every time they played, and how his commitment to the Dallas franchise and community was incredibly special. Schrempf offered appreciation for everything Dirk’s done for basketball in Germany and Europe, serving as a great ambassador and example.
It was, truly, a wonderful ceremony and celebration of Nowitzki’s career. Which we now know will sadly end this week.