As Boyz II Men once said “it’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.” They didn’t know it at the time, but they were actually singing this song about Dirk Nowiztki’s final home game. The song was originally written for a movie in 1975, and Dirk wouldn’t be born for another three years after it was written, but it’s still about him. The Ringer’s Jason Gallagher once told me that every song is actually about Dirk, and my brain keeps circling back to that thought as Nowitzki calls it a career.
Saying goodbye to someone you love is quite possibly the worst experience on the whole planet. You say you’ll call every day, that you’ll still see each other and other lies we need to make the pain of leaving sting a little less. Though that’s all still true for saying goodbye to Dirk, after last night’s celebration and what he’s done all year it’s genuinely made this farewell a little easier.
Professional athletes don’t usually get to decide when they say goodbye. Only some of the best get the chance to decide to hang ‘em up before other factors make the decision for them. Of those who do get to make the choice some decide to make a big deal out of their final year and want everyone to feel obligated to shower them with gifts at every stop along the way.
Others play coy with their ending, stringing the world along and never saying they knew their time was up until they’re out of the spotlight entirely leaving fans and media unable to properly appreciate them knowing for certain when the final game had come.
Then there’s what Dirk Nowitzki did. He stayed firm all year in saying he didn’t know if this was the year he was going to hang it up until Mark Cuban threw the greatest Dirk Day celebration in Dallas history where the big German finally let the world know this was it.
When Dirk was given the microphone after the game the whole crowd knew this was something different. He is never one to reach for the spotlight or seek out attention and acclaim so when he decided to talk to the arena those who knew him knew what was coming next.
Though he hates the spotlight and making things about himself this year he let the NBA and MFFLs have their moment to honor him. He did this because he genuinely loves the fans and knew how important it was for them to have at least one moment when they knew he was leaving to show Dirk how much he meant to them.
Boyz II Men asked us “how do I say goodbye to what we had?” in 1991, and 28 years later we finally have an answer. Dirk Nowitzki showed us the perfect way to say goodbye.