We’ve seen Michael Jordan float on air, we’ve seen Lebron James rock the rim, we’ve seen Shaq overpower every defender in his way, but have we ever seen a skill-set like the Big Baller from the G? Dirk Nowitzki is nearing his 21st, and likely last, season in the NBA and as time winds down on an amazing career, the question no longer lies on what he has to show presently on the court, but where does his legacy rank among the greatest?
Nowitzki heralds from Würzburg, Germany but has shown that his game traveled well, to say the least. Dirk was drafted 9th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1998 NBA Draft but was quickly traded to the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs’ fan base has seen Dirk grow from a scrawny an unproven 20-year-old to an NBA champ and MVP. Now that Nowitzki has reached the last of his journey in the association, we can see how his career stacks up against the greats of past eras and his fellow competitors.
Dirk’s accomplishments speak boldly for themselves. Nowitzki is one of 7 players to hold an MVP, an NBA Finals MVP, an NBA Championship, and be named an NBA All-Star 13 or more times. Dirk is also one of 7 players to ever be a member of the famed 50-40-90 club. He is sixth on the NBA All-time scoring list and will probably move up even higher in the upcoming season.
With all of his accomplishments though, Dirk’s game was never perfect. Nowitzki in his best seasons was an average defender and lacked athleticism. What he lacked on the defensive side of the ball, he more than made up for on the offensive side of the ball. Dirk has averaged a career 21.2 points per game and 7.7 rebounds, but from 2002-2011 he only averaged under 23 points per game once. Dirk wowed fans with an unstoppable fadeaway jumper that many have said is the most unstoppable move ever in the NBA. In an interview with Business Insider in 2014, Dirk explained his shot,”I came up with a shot where I just have to basically lean back, don’t be athletic at all and just hoist it up.”
Many players have used Dirk’s go-to move in the NBA nowadays, with Kevin Durant being the most prominent. “The Dirk one-legger is something I got the most comfortable with over time,” Durant said to ESPN’s Tim McMahon. “It just started to become my go-to bailout shot.”
In terms of all-time rank, Dirk Nowitzki will probably end up in the top-15 to top-20 in most fan’s eyes. His defensive deficiencies are what hold him back from climbing higher for a lot of critics. He’s hands down one of the greatest scorers to ever play the game and is the greatest European-born player of all-time in a lot of people’s eyes.
Whether you have Dirk in your top-10 or top-50, there’s no denying that the NBA had never seen a player with Dirk’s size and skill set before he set foot on an NBA court. Since then, a lot of big-men have gravitated towards the perimeter where Nowitzki dominated continuously for years. His influence on the game will forever be felt and you will see that fadeaway shot for decades to come.