Wednesday afternoon, on ESPN’s daily basketball show/podcast The Jump, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar offered an unprompted shout out to Dirk Nowitzki.
At the end of the show, after discussing his new book, Abdul Jabbar took a moment to say the following about the Big German:
“I want to make a shoutout to Dirk. Some of the statements I made about him were misconstrued to make it seem like I was trying to knock him and knock his career. Nothing could be farther from the truth. He helped the game evolve by stretching the court with his accurate three-point shooting. Anybody that can lead the league multiple times as the leading scorer is awesome. And anything that I said that made anybody think differently, they got it wrong. And I wanted him to hear that from me.”
In February of last year, while doing a wide ranging interview with the Mercatus Center, Adbul-Jabbar was asked about his own signature move, the Sky Hook, and whether there were any other unstoppable moves. The audience member mentioned Dirk’s one footed fade-away. Kareem answered the comparison to Dirk’s fade-away first and had this to say:
Dirk Nowitzki's shot is very hard to block, but I don't think that he was able to have a dominant career because he couldn't do other things. If he could have shot like that and rebounded and played defense and blocked shots, then he would have been all-around, and he would have gotten more credit. He was like a one-trick pony.
You want guys that can shoot like that on your team. I'm not saying that he lacked value, but he would have been considered at a higher level if he had done more on the court other than just shoot the ball.
Fifteen months later, these initial comments still boggle the mind. Kareem is so wrong about Dirk that it’s hard to know where to begin (we broke down his wrongness here), but hey, maybe he has finally seen the error in his ways.
The reason these new comments are so important, and rather interesting, is that Adbul-Jabbar took the time to acknowledge his previous comments at all. While we Mavericks fans will remember the initial comments, they were made in a non-basketball forum and didn’t make waves, despite how bad they were. Now he’s walking those comments back, at least a little bit, in an interview with ESPN.
It’s also a non-apology. Abdul-Jabbar said his comments were “misconstrued”, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. He previously said very clearly that Dirk “was not able to have a dominant career” because all he could do was shoot. Kareem says we got this statement wrong. We did not—he said Dirk did not have a dominant career. Those were his words, not ours.
And yet... he said all of this unprompted. Despite the fact that Kareem’s thoughts more or less read as if he’s saying “I’m sorry you were offended at my comments”, I’m still stuck on the fact that he said anything. He didn’t have to. No one is going to ask one of the top three players in NBA history to apologize. Adbul-Jabbar is notoriously stubborn, so it’s nice to hear. He’s trying to be charitable, even if he’s still very wrong in how he feels about Dirk’s place in NBA history. I’m choosing to take that for what it’s worth.
After all, we all know Dirk Nowitzki is the best basketball player (and human being) of all time.