“We want Dirk! We want Dirk! We want Dirk!” Madison Square Garden rang out with chants for...an opposing player?
The game’s outcome was already decided in favor of the Dallas Mavericks, so the crowd knew it was time to pay homage to one of the greatest players in NBA history.
His stat line wasn’t quite the level of James Harden’s 61-point performance a few weeks ago, and he didn’t hit a game-winner this time in Manhattan, but it was a splendid performance all its own. Dirk Nowitzki scored a season-high 14 points on 5-7 shooting in just 11 minutes. Even at age 40, Dirk remains a highly efficient scorer.
Of all the road arenas he’s played in over his career, Nowitzki averaged the most points per game in The Garden. After the game, Nowitzki said how much he enjoyed playing in New York with the atmosphere and the knowledgeable fans. He also knew after shoot around Wednesday morning that if he got the chance to shoot, he would make his shots.
This season it’s not just Madison Square Garden that hailed Nowitzki with chants from opposing fans begging to see the German legend one more time. Few players, if any, have received this level of universal admiration and respect from fans on the road.
“It’s an unusual situation,” Rick Carlisle said of the chants for Dirk. “A lot of these fans on the road, he’s been coming every year so consistently that it’s almost like they feel he’s one of theirs. It is a respect thing and it’s one of the reasons I’m taking in every moment of this.”
Moments like these make players, coaches, and fans reflect on the greatness of Nowitzki and all that he’s contributed to the NBA. After months of rehab and several poor shooting performances. Last night, Nowitzki gave us a flashback to the Dirk of old.
Retirement after this season isn’t a foregone conclusion, but if this is the end, games like this should be cherished by Mavericks fans and all fans of the sport. Nowitzki will cherish them as well.
“It’s something special,” Nowitzki said. “It is something I will always remember.”