Story and Photo By Dorothy J. Gentry
Dirk Nowitzki is the only player in NBA history to play 21 seasons with the same franchise.
On Wednesday night he became the fourth player in Mavericks history to have his jersey retired. He joins Brad Davis, Rolando Blackman and Derek Harper.
“To the three legends – Ro Blackman, Derek Harper and Brad Davis – my guys, I thank you,” Nowitzki said during the ceremony. “At some point or another all three were mentors of mine and they put basketball on the map here in Dallas in the 80s.
“You are role models and it’s an honor to call you guys friends and to be amongst you guys.”
The jersey retirement ceremony took place at the American Airlines Center following the Mavs’ 99-82 win over the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors honored Nowitzki with a tribute video featuring several of its stars talking about what Dirk has meant to the game and to them.
The ceremony featured music from 41 members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, music and several videos and testimonials from those close to Nowitzki throughout his life. A video montage of his career was shown, including show-stopping performances, his draft day, when he won the NBA’s MVP trophy, and the 2011 finals win against the Miami Heat.
As part of the celebration, the Mavericks honored Nowitzki at halftime with a $250,000.41 donation to his Dirk Nowitzki Foundation which raises money for children’s charities, among other things.
Several special guests were on hand for the game and to watch Nowitzki’s jersey go into the rafters. Those in attendance included NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Dallas Cowboys’ Amari Cooper and Ceedee Lamb; former Dallas Maverick Raymond Felton, former San Antonio Spurs great Tony Parker and some of Nowitzki’s teammates from their 2011 championship winning team including – Ian Mahinmi, Shawn Marion, J.J. Barea, Caron Butler, Brian Cardinal, Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojaković and current head coach of the Mavs – Jason Kidd.
“Dirk, they love you here in Dallas, but they love you all over the world” said Silver. “You’re a trendsetter in this league. Twenty-one years with one team; never been done before and you brought this team a championship.
“One of the 75 greatest (NBA players) of all time, you’re an icon throughout the league, someone who has been a pioneer for international players,” Silver continued. “You have inspired them. Congratulations on your jersey retirement. It’s a huge thrill to be here.”
Kidd, who played alongside Nowitzki for several years and was the team’s point guard when they won the Championship said Dirk, “set the standard for what it means to work and win.
“When you talk about Dirk, two things stand out: work and win. Those are the only things he cared about.”
In a moment no one saw coming – including Nowitzki – Cuban unveiled for the first time a small replica model of the Dirk statue that will be housed outside the arena in the near future.
“We did this not because you won us a championship,” Cuban said. “This is because of who you are, what you’ve done and we always want to recognize greatness forever more. Thank you.”
When he took to the podium, Nowitzki got emotional at times as he thanked former coaches, teammates, friends, colleagues, even the media, for their support throughout his playing career.
“Avery Johnson; we used to call him the little general. I thank him,” Nowitzki said of the former Mavs coach. He pushed me to become a better all-around player. Thanks, Avery, for pushing me.”
Of former coach Rick Carlisle – who coached the team to its only championship – Nowitzki said he “was one of a kind. He paid attention to every detail. He was a great, great basketball mind. He brought us the championship here to Dallas.
“Forever, I thank you for everything you did for me Rick and supporting my foundation events. Rick, thanks a lot, my guy.”
Nowitzki also thanked his 2011 Championship teammates calling them an “unbelievable” team.
“We had a bunch of individual guys who put their egos to the side,” he said. “We had a blast with each other. It was a great bond. I love you guys. Thanks for coming all this way.”
Family was present, including his longtime mentor, coach, and close friend Holger Geschwindner, who made the trip from Germany to see the jersey retirement.
“He was a great teacher with super teaching methods like dribbling a ball with someone playing saxophone,” Nowitzki said. “We have a great relationship; we traveled the world together. He’s a great mentor, and was always there when I needed him.”
Nowitzki thanked his parents, who also were in attendance, for their support and for driving him to all his games and practices when he was a kid. And he thanked his three children and wife, Jessica: “You’re the backbone. You keep this thing rolling. I love you.”
The fans, affectionately known as MFFL’s or Mavs Fans for Life, were also thanked by Nowitzki.
“Thank you, guys, from the bottom of my heart for making this journey incredible. And thank you for taking in a long, lanky kid over 20 years ago and making him one of your own. I’ll be always grateful.”
Nowitzki retired in 2019 as the fifth-leading scorer in NBA history with 31,560 career points. While he has since been bumped down to sixth place by LeBron James, his total remains the most for any foreign-born player in NBA history, by nearly 5,000 points.
Dirk led the Mavericks to their lone championship in 2011, scoring at least 21 points in every game as they upset the heavily-favored Miami Heat in six games. Nowitzki averaged 26.0 ppg and 9.7 rpg to join Hakeem Olajuwon and Tony Parker as the only foreign players to win Finals MVP. (The group has since grown to include Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.)
He became the first European player to win NBA MVP, doing so in the 2006-07 season after averaging 24.6 ppg and 8.9 rpg as the Mavericks won a team-record 67 games. In his storied career with the Mavs, Nowitzki set Dallas career records in points, rebounds (11,489), 3-pointers (1,982), blocks (1,281), field goals (11,169) and games played (1,522).
Of the seven NBA players with at least 30,000 career points, only Nowitzki, James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also reached 10,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists, 1,000 steals and 1,000 blocks.
The others in the 30,000-point club are: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain and Karl Malone.