Dirk Nowitzki is a legend, in his own way
Dirk Nowitzki passed Wilt Chamberlain for sixth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list on Monday night. Let me repeat: Dirk Nowitzki now has more points than Wilt the Stilt.
I’m not sure why it feels so weird to read those words over and over again, but it does. Dirk has the sixth most points in NBA history. He’s scored more points than the guy that once scored 100 in one game and averaged 30.1 points per game for his 16-season career. That’s nuts, right?
For multiple reasons, Dirk still feels like the indie band only you and your friend like. That’s patently absurd, of course — Dirk is one of the greatest players of all time! Yet if it were ever possible to have an under the radar career and still be one of the all-time greats, Dirk seems to have done it.
Maybe it’s because Dallas, while large, isn’t a glamour market like New York, Los Angeles, Miami or Chicago. If Dirk passed Wilt while wearing forum blue and gold for 21 seasons, this would be dominating the news cycle for at least a few days. Maybe it’s because the Mavericks aren’t a historic franchise — they’ve only existed for just a hair under four decades, which is sort of a speck on the NBA’s timeline.
Or maybe it’s because the Mavericks play in the Dallas-Fort Worth market and the fans here are notoriously fickle when it comes to any team outside of the Cowboys. The Mavericks haven’t even been the second favorite team of DFW sports fans for this decade — that would be the Texas Rangers. Last season when the Rangers had their worst record in 33 seasons, they posted an average 1.82 TV rating. The Mavericks this season during Luka-mania? They have a 74 percent increase from last season to...an average 1.34 rating.
Really though, I think it’s mostly because Dirk is notorious for not seeking attention. He’s never truly entertained playing with another team, he has two sponsors (Nike and a bank in Germany) and the only notable thing he’s done off the court has been his charity work with The Dirk Nowitzki Foundation.
Unless you want to count his brief Hollywood career:
Over the last few seasons, I’ve worried Dirk’s memory would fall by the wayside since anyone who wasn’t a Mavericks or die-hard NBA fan never tuned in for Dirk. They tuned in for Jordan or LeBron, or for Kobe and Shaq.
Dirk went out of his way to not build a persona or legend, unlike almost all of his peers. Kobe Bryant did not dress up like a fox. Michael Jordan did not do an in-arena parody video of The Jerk. Dirk is what we envision we’d all be like if we were filthy rich and wildly good at basketball. The lie there is of course we would never be like Dirk. We’re all giant assholes. Dirk is one of a kind.
But these days, I don’t worry about Dirk’s legacy as much. You can’t take away Dirk’s MVP or his championship. You also can’t take away his place in history. Only five players have scored more points in league history than Dirk Nowitzki. It turns out Dirk never needed any help to build his legacy — his game did it for him.