Dirk Nowitzki added another piece of hardware to his shelf Wednesday night. This time though, it wasn’t a trophy or award from the NBA. Nor was it a plaque commemorating the accomplishments of the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation. No, this time is was an honor unique to the city that took in a young, German teenager 20 years ago and accepted him as one of its own. At halftime, as the Dallas Mavericks played the Brooklyn Nets, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings presented Nowitzki with the Key to the City of Dallas.
“I’m very honored, very humbled, obviously,” Nowitzki said. “It’s been a long, great ride here. Twenty years of representing the city proudly, the franchise, and the fanbase with a lot of ups and downs, but I’ve always tried to carry myself right and represent the city in the right way and do things the right way. So, I’m happy to get this key.”
Receiving a Key to the City of Dallas is a rare privilege. During Mayor Rawlings’ eight-year tenure, he has awarded it only two other times. Jordan Spieth received one his rookie season after winning both the Masters and the U.S. Open. The second went to local preservationist Virginia McAllister.
“It’s not something I do on a regular basis,” Rawlings said. “It’s got to be someone, really, that is a very, very special person. Sort of one of those things where if they’re great, there’s no debate. [Nowitzki] is that.”
It’s not just his work on the basketball court that earned Nowitzki the honor. His charitable work through Dirk Nowitzki Foundation as well as serving as a de facto international ambassador for the city have gone a long way in endearing Nowitzki to his adopted hometown. Therefore, receiving the Key to the City is a recognition that Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle believes that Nowitzki is wholly deserves.
“It’s a great honor for him and the organization, for sure,” Carlisle said. “It’s a highly prestigious honor. When you do what he’s done for two decades, things like this can happen. As far as where he is in the pantheon of great Dallas athletes, he’s up there with the best.”
Unfortunately, the Key to the City doesn’t come with any special privileges. It does not offer free parking or anything like that, the mayor said. It just a way that the citizens of Dallas get to honor the recipient. Upon hearing this, in true Dirk fashion, Nowitzki joked, “No property taxes?”
His sense of humor is just one of the reasons Nowitzki is so loved in Dallas. There is no one more deserving of the Key to the City.