Think back to when you first watched Dirk Nowitzki.
Maybe it was his introductory press conference where he showed up to Dallas with a bowl cut and an earring, or perhaps it was the first time you saw him swish a one-legged fade on the American Airlines Center hardwood.
No matter when you first saw Dirk or how, we’ve all traveled on this journey, watching this 7-foot freak of nature become one of the most dominant scorers in NBA history.
And here we are, on the eve of history again. Dirk is closing in on 30,000 points. Only five other men have done what he’s about to accomplish. And if you’ve been fortunate to see point No. 1 all the way to now, you can’t deny this roller coaster has been fun.
So I want to take you on a journey — reliving moments of greatness that Dirk has provided for almost 20 years of pure basketball nirvana.
Here is a timeline of Dirk’s trek along the road to 30,000.
First NBA points - Feb. 5, 1999
Two free throws against the Seattle SuperSonics. Didn’t make a single field goal that night. ‘He’s a bust,’ said some Mavericks fan, probably, who wasn’t ready to party like it was 1999.
First NBA field goal - Feb. 7, 1999
Two days later, Dirk scores 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting. He also grabbed 12 rebounds! This would be one of two double-doubles in the lockout-shortened season, and Dallas beat the Warriors, in Golden State, 102-99.
100 points - March 4, 1999
Dirk reached 100 career points in a 16-point loss to San Antonio. He’s 16 games into his NBA career, averaging a whopping 6.8 points on 33 percent shooting. Nowhere but up, right?
Best rookie game - April 16, 1999
Dirk has his best game as a young whippersnapper, scoring 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting in a seven-point loss to Phoenix. The Big German played 44 minutes and went 7-of-8 from the free-throw line. Dirk followed that with two 22-point games against the Houston Rockets on April 21 and April 29.
500 points - Nov. 16, 1999
Dirk reaches the 500-point mark on a mid-November night against the Rockets in a 114-95 win in Dallas. Dirk spent the bulk of his 27 minutes at the charity stripe, making 10-of-12 attempts. It was the sixth time in eight games he scored in double figures, already a great improvement from his rookie season.
First 30-point game - Nov. 23, 1999
Another milestone, another loss. Dirk scores a career-high 31 points on 12-of-19 shooting in a 20-point loss to Houston. He hit the 31-point mark again on Dec. 7 at home against the Vancouver Grizzlies (!!!), but the Mavs lost by nine. Dirk also fouled out of that game.
1,000 points - Jan. 10, 2000
Dirk gets to 1,000 points in a 13-point loss to Portland. Who would’ve thought he’d end up scoring 30 times more than that? Just remarkable.
2,000 points - Nov. 18, 2000
We’ll try not to document every 1,000 points, but this was such a quick ascension from Dirk. He starts his third season by scoring in double figures in 10 of his first 11 games, including a 20-point night in Vancouver to get him two grand.
First monster Dirk game - Jan. 18, 2001
The legend of Dirk arrived this day. He scored 30 or more points 10 times in 2000-01, but he notched a career-high 38 points to go along with 17 rebounds in a 115-106 home overtime win against Orlando. This was one of many amazing Dirk performances this year that vaulted the Mavericks back into the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. Side note: a young Tracy McGrady led the Magic with 34 points. We’ll discuss these two again later.
First 40-point game - Jan. 15, 2002
Our young Dirk has grown up to be an All-Star. Dirk made his first Western Conference All-Star team in 2001-02, and on this date, recorded his first ever 40-point game in a nine-point road win at Atlanta. Not to be outdone, however, by a career-high 46 points by future NBA champion teammate Jason Terry. We live for irony here at Mavs Moneyball.
5,000 points - March 7, 2002
Dirk goes for 35 points in a home win against Toronto, giving him 5,000 big ones. This was a year of big-time moments for Dirk. He was establishing himself as one of the best young players in the game, as well as a top scorer. Despite living in the shadows of Steve Nash and Michael Finley, Dirk was quietly becoming a force of nature.
First 2,000-point season - 2002-03
Dirk doesn’t reach any single-game milestones this year (he had another 40-point game and made his second straight All-Star team), but he reached the 2,000-point mark in a season for the first time with 2,011. He also became a reliable player for the Mavericks, playing in at least 80 games for the third time in four years. This was a bigger year for Dirk in the playoffs, though. He started things off with a 46-point explosion in Game 1 of the first-round series against Portland, and scored 42 six days later in Game 3. He was a driving force in getting Dallas to its first Western Conference Finals in 15 years.
43-point night in Seattle - Jan. 27, 2004
This was the equivalent of Dirk throwing rocks into the ocean. His 43-point night was highlighted by a career-high eight 3-pointers. That capped a 16-of-22 shooting performance that only required five trips to the free-throw line. It was almost perfect, had the Mavericks chose Dirk to take the game-winning shot instead of Antoine Walker to beat the Sonics.
Dirk vs. T-Mac - Dec. 2, 2004
It’s Dirk’s team now, and on this December night, he put forth the best regular season performance of his career. His career-high 53 points was enough to out duel Tracy McGrady’s 48 points in one of the greatest scoring duels in NBA history. The Mavericks beat the Houston Rockets, 113-106, in overtime. With Steve Nash now in Phoenix, Dirk inserted himself into the MVP conversation after one month, averaging just over 27 points and 11 rebounds. Before there was a Boogie or an AD, there was a Dirk.
10,000 points - Jan. 18, 2005
Dirk came into this tilt with the Washington Wizards needing two points to reach five figures. With 7:16 left in the first quarter, Dirk hit a 23-foot jumper on the assist from Jason Terry to give him 10,000 points. Dallas beat a really good Wizards team led by Gilbert Arenas, 137-120. Dirk finished the year third in the MVP voting and was close to a double-double at 26 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. In short, he was really, really good.
Here’s how determined Dirk was to get the Mavericks to the NBA Finals. He took less than 10 shots in a game twice all year. He played in 81 games. He set a new career-high in points in a season with 2,151. It was also Dirk’s most efficient season to date, shooting 48 percent from the floor, over 40 percent from 3-point range, and set a career-high at 26.6 points per game. Dirk ended the year at 13,257 points and eclipsed 4,500 made field goals. Also, Dirk had 12 games where he made at least 10 free throws in a game. Prime Dirk trumps all.
15,000 points - March 30, 2007
Dirk came into this game against the New York Knicks needing one point for 15,000. He got it in less than a minute on a 16-foot jumper. It was his free throws that would decide this night, though. Dirk’s game-winning foul shots with 26.5 seconds left capped a 17-point fourth quarter for the Big German, giving the eventual MVP 30 on the night in a 105-103 home win. Let’s forget about everything else that happened weeks after this game, huh?
First triple-double - Feb. 6, 2008
We need to take a moment and appreciate Dirk’s all-around greatness. Dirk records his first career triple-double – 29 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds – against the Milwaukee Bucks, the team that originally drafted him 10 years prior. Again. MMB, we live for irony.
Mavs’ all-time leading scorer - March 8, 2008
Dirk scored 34 points in a 111-91 win over the New Jersey Nets and he became the franchise’s all-time leading scorer with 16,644 career points. It took 10-plus years for this tall kid from Germany to surpass Rolando Blackman on the scoring charts. And to think, he arrived to Dallas with a bad haircut and one earring.
First buzzer-beating game winner - Jan. 19, 2009
In a season where Dirk scored 40 or more points four times, one shot defined the 2008-09 campaign. The first time he hit a game-winning shot with no time left came on a turn-around jumper over Reggie Evans in Philadelphia. Dirk’s hit many a clutch shots in his career, but this was the first time he drained the ever-loving walk-off shot. A rainbow never looked so pretty.
20,000 points - Jan. 13, 2010
Despite a close loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Dirk eclipsed the 20,000-point mark with 10:57 remaining in the fourth quarter and became the first European-born player to reach that mark. After the game, Rick Carlisle told ESPN.com’s Tim MacMahon, “He’ll end up with 25,000 before he’s done, for sure.”
25,000 points - April 14, 2013
Carlisle is a prophet. For the first time in 13 years, Dallas missed the playoffs. But late in the year, Dirk eclipsed the 25,000-point plateau in New Orleans against the Hornets. It was a frustrating year for Dirk, missing the first two months of the year with a knee injury and not having quite enough that season to make a playoff push. But he did have his moments, like scoring a season-high 35 points and hitting the game-winning three in a crucial March showdown against the Chicago Bulls. And dear sweet Jesus, that’s one glorious beard.
Tenth all-time - April 8, 2014
On this day, only nine players had more points in NBA history than Dirk. The Big German moved into 10th all-time in points, passing Oscar Robertson with 26,714. He did it in Utah, a place where Dirk has not been everyone’s friend throughout the years.
Ninth all-time - Nov. 11, 2014
A mid-range jumper in the fourth quarter against the Sacramento Kings gave Dirk 26,948 points, surpassing Hakeem Olajuwon for ninth on the scoring list. Dirk also became the highest scoring foreign-born player in NBA history. This would not be the first time in 2014 that Dirk climbed up the rankings.
1,500 threes - Nov. 28, 2014
Little we forget Dirk’s ability to make the long ball. Dirk made his 1,500th three of his career on this late November night in Toronto.
Eighth all-time - Dec. 26, 2014
A little over a month later, Dirk passed Elvin Hayes. What a late Christmas present. Dirk’s left-wing jumper in the third quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers pushed Dirk to No. 8 all-time. Hang tight. We’ll get you to No. 7 shortly.
Seventh all-time - Jan. 5, 2015
Told you it wouldn’t take long. Dirk struggled to get anything going this night in Brooklyn, shooting 6-of-16, but his clutch 3-pointer in overtime pushed him to No. 7 past Moses Malone. By this point, the Rajon Rondo trade didn’t give us much to cheer for, but Dirk’s quick rise up the scoring charts made 2015 a fun time.
10,000 made field goals - Nov. 30, 2015
On the road, in Sacramento, Dirk became the 13th player in NBA history to make 10,000 shots. Of course it came on a one-legged fade, because Dirk.
Sixth all-time, Dirk passes Shaq - Dec. 23, 2015
Once again, facing Brooklyn, Dirk moved past Shaquille O’Neal for No. 6 on the scoring list. Seeing this makes you wonder what would’ve happened had Dirk actually been traded for Shaq back in 2004. That just doesn’t seem fun.
29,000 points - Feb. 21, 2016
Dirk hits the 29,000 mark on this night against Philadelphia with, of all things, a 3-pointer. What more needs to be said? The man is a legend.
40 points at 37 - March 20, 2016
As you’ve seen, Dirk has had many big scoring nights. But putting up 40 points at 37 years old in a must-win game against Portland might have topped the cake. Dallas, in need of a win to keep pace in the playoff race, watched Dirk join Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone as the only players to score 40 points at age 37 or older. Of all the classic Dirk games, this one is my favorite.
7,000 made free-throws - April 13, 2016
Anything else? Dirk reached 7,000 made free throws for his career in the 2016 season finale against San Antonio. He became the seventh player in league history to reach that mark. Safe to say, however, he will not reach Karl Malone’s all-time mark of 9,787. To give you an idea of how efficient Dirk is at the charity stripe, he’s taken slightly over 8,000 free throws for his career. I mean, yeah, he’s good.
So, here we are. What a ride. Over 2,000 words of greatness, nostalgia and epic euphoria. As we prepare for life after Dirk, it’s moments like these we need to continue to cherish long after he’s retired. There will never be another player like him, nor may there ever be another Dallas Maverick like him. And even though he’ll continue to say it’s about the team more than him, one can hope Dirk will sit back one day this year, maybe with Holger, and revel in the fact that he exists on a rarefied list of NBA players.
What a ride. Congrats, Dirk.