Dirk Nowitzki is a professional basketball player who became popular during the early 2000s. He is a 7-foot-tall forward, and he was the sixth German to play in the NBA. Even if Nowitzki is often compared to another talented NBA star, Larry Bird, Dirk Nowitzki built his own identity and reputation in the industry. Most people like to call him the best European to ever play in the NBA. In this article, we are going to know more about the life and career of Dirk Nowitzki and what made him a sports legend.
Life and Career
Dirk Nowitzki was born in 1978 in Wurzburg, Germany, and he is the son of Helen and Joerg Nowitzki. Back in the days, his father played for West Germany in team handball, and his mother was a well-known star player of Germany’s women’s national basketball team. Because he saw his mother active and sister being active in the said sport from an early age, the Nowitzki thought basketball was a sport for girls when he was young. That is why a child, he played tennis, team handball, and soccer.
Dirk Nowitzki’s interest in playing basketball began when he was just thirteen years old and soon grew to love it. Holger Geschwindner noticed Nowitzki’s playing skills while Nowitzki was playing pickup games at a local gym. Gerschwindner used to play on the West German Olympic team back in 1972. When Nowitzki was 16 years old, he started for the second division team in German Bundesliga named DJK Wurzburg X-Rays. During this time, he is continuously tutored by Gerschwindner to hone his basketball skills. Gerschwindner also happened to be the team’s coach, and he created a plan to maximize Nowitzki’s basketball skills.
However, basketball was not Nowitzki’s only focus, because from 1997 to 1998, Nowitzki completed his mandatory service in the German Army. He was also allowed to play basketball out of the country as a member of the International Junior Select Team, which consists of players under-19 year old, and they competed in the Nike Hoop Summit in March of 1998. The summit was considered as Nowitzki’s breakout game because, at a young age, he managed to score 33 points and 14 rebounds against the American team. At the end of the game, Nowitzki’s team won against the Americans with 104-99. His magnificent performance during the summit captured both college and professional scouts, though, during this time, he was still not well known.
Nowitzki was not able to play during pre-draft camp and attend the NBA draft because of his ongoing army commitment. In late 1998, Nowitzki was drafted in the 1998 NBA draft as the ninth pick of the Milwaukee Bucks. However, not long after that, Nowitzki was then traded to Dallas for Buck’s number 19 pick, Pat Garrity, and sixth pick Robert Traylor. However, even if he got drafted in the NBA, Nowitzki was unsure if he would play in the NBA right away. Aside from that, he also thought about staying in Europe and spend more seasons playing there. But in the end, Nowitzki still decided to join the Dallas Mavericks and play in the NBA after he had a meeting with then Dallas coach Don Nelson. One reason why Nowitzki quickly agreed to come and play in the NBA was Don Nelson allowed him to leave the country twice during the season to play for the German national team and help them qualify for Olympic play in 2000.
Nowitzki was still a raw talent when he first came to Dallas, but he was very athletic and had great hands. However, with that much talent, Nowitzki still struggled during his first NBA season in Dallas. Nowitzki had a not so stellar rookie year in 1998–99, which is why he somehow regretted his decision to come to the NBA. However, the Dallas Mavericks was patient enough to work with him on his defense, footwork, and shot creation while he adjusted to the speed of how the NBA game works. In the 1999-200 season, Nowitzki did much better, and he got the chance to show his ability to shoot from anywhere on the floor and solid passing. His stats greatly improved, and he’s averaging 21.3 points and 9.4 rebounds every game. Aside from that, Nowitzki also started to learn how to speak English fluently and becoming more comfortable in his new lifestyle.
By 2000, Nowitzki slowly became a star in the league. And during the 2000–01 season, it was evident that Nowitzki’s NBA game greatly improved. However, he still had much to work on, including how to box out, his rebounding positioning, and how to post up. During this time, Mavericks were also on a learning curve because they have been a dull team for much of the 1990s.
Over the next few seasons, Nowitzki continued to get better. He also developed a name as an outstanding rebounder and scorer. Even if Nowitzki became an NBA star, he still returned to Germany each summer to work with Geschwindner, and he has been doing it ever since he joined the Mavericks. Geschwindner believed in Nowitzki’s unique drills, so he always helped practice and improve his playing skills.
In 2006, the Dallas Mavericks handed their best playoffs ever, and Nowitzki led the team. He helped knock out San Antonio Spurs in seven games during the second round of the playoffs. Soon after the legendary playoffs, Nowitzki agreed to extend his contract with the Dallas Mavericks. Before the 2006–07 season began, he signed the deal worth a whopping $60 million, which ran from the 2008–09 season through 2011. Despite his success, Nowitzki was still working hard to be the better version of himself.