Toby Keith sings "I ain't as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was."
At 37 years and 200-something days old, Dirk Nowitzki is not the destroyer of worlds we long-time fans remember. But after nearly 18 years in the National Basketball Association, it's fair to say that on any given night, Dirk is still a force to be reckoned with.
Outside of the nutty 2012-13 season (shoutout to Dirk's knee injury), the Mavs have made the playoffs every single season since 2001. But this season was supposed to be the season the Dallas Mavericks finally, truly stumbled. The DeAndre Jordan debacle happened. Wesley Matthews was coming off a career-altering Achilles tear. Chandler Parsons was recovering from microfracture surgery. Dirk was no longer Dirk. After all, he was old...right?
Wrong. The Mavericks are a surprise part of the playoff chase, currently sitting in fifth. Though the effort has been more balanced than in years past, Dirk Nowitzki is still the center of the Maverick offensive universe, chipping in just under 18 points a game, grabbing seven rebounds, and shooting a crisp 45 percent from the floor. He's shooting more threes (4.4 per game) and playing more minutes (31 per game) than in recent seasons.
Yes, his numbers are trending down lately. After a scorching November, he had a rough December and has really shot the ball poorly over all in 2016. And yet, when the time's right, he still turns back the clock and dominates like the Dirk of old. Ask the Boston Celtics, who held Dirk to a 2-of-13 start before Dirk scored a whopping 21 points in the fourth quarter and over time. Or the young Kings, who watched Dirk snatch victory from the jaws of defeat through one of the most gutsy step back 3-pointers you'll see this season.
The problem we run into is that an 18-7 season isn't really "All-Star" worthy, not if we're being honest with how All-Star teams are assembled with the fan vote choosing the starters, and coaches (really assistant coaches) choosing the bench. With a likely fan-voted starting five of Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green, things could get really dicey for coaches selecting the bench. Kobe Bryant getting voted in causes a lot of problems, but the fact is, there are a lot of deserving players.
Chris Paul, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, and DeMarcus Cousins are probably locks at this point. That leaves three spots for Dirk, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Klay Thompson. That doesn't even begin to mention dark horses (and deserving candidates in their own right) like Damian Lillard, Derrick Favors, C.J. McCollum, or Gordon Hayward.
Look at that list again. It's absurd. You may disagree with some players being on it, but NBA coaches will have to whittle down that list of 8-12 deserving players down to just three. Injuries may well play a factor (as they did last year, which was how Dirk got in to begin with), but right now that's not the case.
But, it's a game for fans and the Mavericks are out-performing expectations wildly, in large part due to the timeless brilliance of Dirk. Fans know and want to see Dirk, even if his game rarely translates to All-Star material (one exception below). Add this to the fact that coaches are unlikely to leave a team thick in the playoff hunt without an All-Star and it appears very possible that Dirk will overcome the other facts on the table and earn a selection to the All-Star game.
If I were a betting man, I'd wager that Dirk isn't particularly interested in going to his 14th All-Star game. It's in Toronto, where it's absurdly cold, and old people don't like the cold. He's mentioned often about how he'd like to take a short vacation with his family, but right now it appears that despite all the aforementioned evidence, Dirk will be heading to the All-Star game once again***.