Dirk Nowitzki is good at basketball. Really good. Like, number six in scoring all-time good. But you knew that.
You’ve watched him play and transform the league in the process. That’s old news. But what if he never picked up the sport? What if Holger never found him and he never put the leather on the hardwood or made the nylon sing? Would he still be active in sports? Probably, it’s in his blood, but what would he be doing?
Nowitzki comes from an incredibly athletic family. He too, in case the youths don’t remember, was exceptionally athletic when he entered the NBA. His mother, Helga, and his sister, Silke, both played basketball and Nowitzki’s father, Jörg-Werner, was a handball player. In fact, as a child, Nowitzki played tennis and handball before turning to basketball. Tennis remains one of Nowitzki’s passions but what if he had pursued it professionally from a young age?
Clearly, if Nowitzki continued on a path to professional tennis, we wouldn’t even know the name Roger Federer. Dirk would have won every Grand Slam title up to this point.
OK, that’s a stretch. Nowitzki, though, probably could have made Germany proud, perhaps even being mentioned in the same breath as Boris Becker and Steffi Graff. He’d certainly be tough to beat with that wingspan.
If you still doubt his tennis chops, check out this video of Dirk working on his skills:
These days, Nowitzki holds an annual charity tennis tournament through his foundation. Andy Roddick, Ben Stiller, J.J. Barea, and Harrison Barnes were some of the participants at last summer’s event.
Tennis isn’t the only path Nowitzki could have taken, though. Since he’s European, he’s a big soccer (or “football”) fan. He tweets about it regularly. Can you imagine him as a member of Germany’s World Cup champion team in 2014? A 7-footer can be good at soccer, right?
Oof. OK, maybe soccer isn’t his thing. What about something a little more American?
Well, there’s nothing more American than baseball if you believe Ken Burns and all the insufferable people on Baseball Twitter. Sure, it would have been a stretch for Nowitzki to find baseball naturally since it’s really only popular in the Americas and parts of Asia but it’s not out of the scope of possibility.
If Dirk was a baseball player, his best bet for success would be as a pitcher. Randy Johnson was the Big Unit and Nowitzki is the Big German. You don’t really want someone that tall being a position player, after all. He wouldn’t be one of those easy out, waste of a plate appearance pitchers that the National League is full of, either. Dirk can get hits.
He’ll have to work on his base running but otherwise not bad.
So, as we can see, basketball wasn’t the inevitable choice for Nowitzki. He could have chosen a number of sports to pursue. However, with all due respect for tennis, soccer, and baseball, Dirk made the right choice by deciding on basketball. After the career he’s had, we’re all better because of it.