Dirk Joins Great: the 30,000 Club

I don’t feel sorry for Larry Nance Jr. His father posterized many a helpless player. And now the son will forever be linked with Dirk Werner Nowitzki.  A Dirk patented stepback for his 30,000 point, scored early in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers, immortalized Nance Jr. but for the wrong reasons. Every time that shot is repetitively shown it will be  NanceJr. whose jersey will be on the right side of history, the celebratory mark for the greatest European player in NBA history. When Dirk came into the league in 1998, Nance Jr. was in kindergarten. When Dirk leaves the league, Nance Jr. will have completed his third NBA season. The NBA does this, it intersects the young and the old, the talented and the average, the 30,000 point Nowitzki and the 639 point Larry Nance.

If Dirk’s career is a testament to any one thing it is survival over adversity. He has had the ups and downs that are incumbent with a long career. There was the MVP in 2007 awarded days after the Mavs first round loss to the Warriors. Somehow it tainted the MVP, as the Mavs had been the best team all year but they couldn’t handle Baron Davis. There was the NBA title in 2011 and then not winning a playoff series since. Dirk took less money so Cuban could bring in star players. Then, he took what he was owed this past summer, two years, $25 million, the Kobe sweetheart deal.

He’ll get the Kobe farewell tour as well. Having a long career in the league doesn’t necessarily put you at the top of the food chain. As Draymond Green publicly noted when trash talking Paul Pierce, every long career isn’t equal. There is good. There is great. There is extraordinary.

Dirk was drafted in 1998. In that draft Michael Olowokandi was the number one pick.  Mike Bibby was the number two pick. Raef LaFrentz was the number three pick. Other notables in that draft were Antawn Jamison (4th), Vince Carter (5th), Paul Pierce (9th), Tyronn Lue (23rd).

With the 9th pick the Bucks drafted Dirk and then traded him to Dallas for Robert “Tractor” Traylor,  a star and three year bulky power forward out of Michigan. The Bucks were a playoff team with Ray Allen and needed a big man. From their vantage point the lanky German who wowed in workouts but still wasn’t convincing didn’t translate into NBA excellent. Only Don Nelson thought so. Nelson said Dirk had the best workout he had ever seen.

No one knows on draft night who is going to do what in their career. Circumstances change for everybody. You need luck. You need the perfect situation. You need not to get injured. You need a good front office to surround you with teammates who are versatile and skilled.

In Dirk’s first year he played 20 minutes and averaged 8.2 points. The next year he doubled that with 17.5 points, being fed the ball by Steven Nash. His third year he was putting in 21.8 points. His fourth year, he dropped 23.4 points. His fifth year, he was a 25.1 points per game scorer. His relatively injury free history brought him to this hallowed ground of 30,000 points. Dirk has played 19 seasons. In those 19 seasons he has played less than 70 games four times, including this season. He was the daily double, good and healthy.

The NBA had never seen a player like Dirk, a seven footer who didn’t make his living in the paint and who drained threes. He is 15th on the All-time list of three pointers made, the only seven footer.

Of the precious 30,000 point club (Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Dirk Nowitzki) only Bryant and Nowitzki didn’t go to college. Bryant and Nowitki played their entire careers with one franchise, unlike the other four members of the 30,000 club. Bryant and Nowitzki were the only two players traded on draft night.

“It was surreal. I got a little nervous. It was a great, great feeling to share it with great teammates and the crowd. It’s been a crazy ride with a lot of ups and a lot of downs. You guys stuck with me and you hung in there. Thank you.” (Dirk on historic night)

The 30,000 points was special. But the true Dirk Nowitzki talent was evident post-game. What has made him a legend in Dallas is Dirk the man. Gracious as always. Loyal to the city. Talented. Humble at his accomplishment. Generous towards his teammates. Thankful. Proud of how far he has come.

photo via llananba