Compared to other NBA Hall of Famers, Dirk Nowitzki stands out in one major way; loyalty.
Before retiring, Kobe Bryant spent his entire career in Los Angeles with one of the most well-known organizations in the NBA–the Lakers. After this season, Dirk will have done the same with the Mavericks of Dallas, but there’s something special about this season for the seven-footer; an NBA record 21 seasons with one franchise.
Don’t misconstrue my words. Kobe Bryant deserves to be a NBA Hall of Famer. No question about it. He played 20 years with the Lakers and will leave a legacy in LA for decades and generations to come. This is about Dirk Nowitzki, not Kobe. With different careers and achievements, both are NBA Hall of Famers in my book.
Since 1997–when Dirk entered the NBA(drafted in 1998)–so much as changed. Here are a few notable changes in sports and the US since then.
-1997: Google Search was added to the Internet.
-2001: Wikipedia was added to the internet, WTC/Twin Towers acts of terrorism.
-2004: Facebook was created by Mark Zuckerburg.
-2005: The New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl shortly after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area.
-2006: Twitter is invented and began breaking sports news faster than other media.
-2008: Michael Phelps wins 8 gold medals at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, China.
-2010: LeBron James took his talents to South Beach to play for the Miami Heat.
-2011: Dirk led the Mavericks to their first NBA Championship, defeating the LeBron-led Heat
-2012: Kentucky basketball wins the NCAA National Championship with 5 freshman starters.
-2013: 50 year anniversary of the JFK Assassination in Dallas, Texas.
-2018: Mavericks find their newest franchise player–Luka Doncic–with a first-pick in the NBA Draft.
At 40, Dirk has been playing basketball professionally for half his life already. Adding the 21st season to his career shows his determination, loyalty to Dallas and only improves his legacy in the NBA. Highlighted by his league MVP performance in 2006-2007 and his Finals MVP performance in the Mavericks 2011 NBA Championship, Dirk has also faced his share of hardships during his career.
Despite leading the Mavericks to 15 playoff appearances in his 20 year career, Dirk and the Mavs have only advanced passed the first-round 7 times. Of those seven, the only advanced to the Conference Finals three times, winning two. Additionally, The Mavs have been to the Finals just twice, losing in 2005/2006 to the Heat (4-2) and winning in 2010/2011 over the Heat (4-2).
Although winning isn’t everything, no professional athlete enjoys losing. In his 20 seasons, the Nowitzki-led Mavericks have won 50+ games twelve times. Granted, the other eight seasons were pitiful for Dallas, but Dirk stuck with it.
Last season, the Mavs finished just 24-58, earning themselves the 3rd-pick in the NBA Lottery for the draft.
Aside from major events in the US and sports, the NBA itself has changed quite a bit since Dirk first arrived.
-2001: The Developmental league (now G-League) was created.
-2004: The Charlotte Bobcats became the newest expansion team in the NBA.
-2011: NBA lockout forced the season to be cut short, playing just 66 games.
-2013: The New Orleans Hornets changed their name to the Pelicans.
-2014: The Spurs hire the first female assistant coach in the NBA, Becky Hammon.
-2017: NBA allows advertisements on the front of game-worn NBA jerseys.
For Dallas, Dirk has become the face of the Mavericks for the last two decades. Starting his career with some all-stars alongside him, Nowitzki is now the lone veteran on the team, guiding younger players in his footsteps.
Of course there have been some major changes in the NBA since Dirk entered the NBA, but the entire game has seen a shift as well.
The dynasty created in Golden State by the Warriors, depending on the three-point shot, has changed how big-men in the paint on teams are relied on. In his career, Dirk has had an above three-point shooting percentage, especially for his position.
In the league now, it is an expectation that all five players can shoot, and make, three-pointers. In 2006, Dirk won the 3PT shootout and had a season percentage of over 40% from behind the arc, the best of his career.
If you haven’t watched Nowitzki play the game, don’t miss him this season. Sure, the Mavericks haven’t been a good team since the ’06/’07 season when they had 67 wins and won the NBA Finals, but Dirk still continues to impress those patient enough to watch him shine on the court.