How Far Can Dirk Nowitzki Climb On the All-Time Scoring List?


How far can Dirk Nowitzki climb up the NBA all-time scoring list? It’s a simple question, but a hard one to answer. Here’s what we know:

  • Nowitzki sits at 7th all-time with 27,496 points
  • Nowitzki is averaging 18.7 points per game at 36 years of age
  • Shaquille O’Neal is ahead of Nowitzki at 6th all-time with 28,596 points. Everyone else has at least 31,419

First up is the rest of this year. Let’s say he keeps up his average of 18.7 points for the second half of the regular season. Let’s also say he plays in 38 of the possible 41 games, like he did in the first half. If that happens his total will be right around 28,200. Still a little over 400 behind the Big Aristotle, Cactus, etc.

So, he’ll likely enter next season still in fifth place all-time, but on the cusp of moving into sixth.

Is that as high as Nowitzki can climb? It’s virtually impossible for him to reach the 32,292 points scored by Michael Jordan, who sits in fourth place. Nowitzki will be 37 years old at the beginning of training camp next season, likely still about 4,000 points shy of His Airness.

But could he pass Wilt Chamberlain for 5th all-time?

If Nowitzki maintains his season average for the rest of the year he’ll enter next season somewhere around 3,200 points behind The Big Dipper. Is it insurmountable at this point in his career? Maybe.

As previously mentioned, Nowitzki will be 37 entering next year. And we’ve seen his role somewhat diminished this season. Throw out his hobbled 2012-13 season and Nowitzki is averaging his fewest field goal attempts since his second year in the league.

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Let’s say that trend continues next season, and he averages 15 points per contest in 70 games. It’s a pretty significant drop in point production, but it’s also probably pretty likely.

He’d still be around 2,000 points out of 5th place, and the thought of Nowitzki calling it a career will really begin to take hold.

He’s signed through the 2016-17 season, but it’s a player option. He could retire whenever he wanted anyways.

So how long will he play?

Nowitzki will be able to shoot until the wheels fall off. But the grueling schedule, the constant traveling, and the displeasure that comes with 96 feet of running between every possession could very well coax him into retirement before 40. He spoke on the subject a little bit during last year’s all-star break.

Along with how his body holds up, Nowitzki’s decision regarding retirement will surely have a lot to do with his supporting cast. He wants to win another championship. Duh.

Dec 23, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Dallas Mavericks center Tyson Chandler (6), forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) and guard Rajon Rondo (9) against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Mavericks 124-115. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

If the Mavericks retain Rajon Rondo, Tyson Chandler, and Monta Ellis beyond this season Dallas will have a cast “young” enough around Nowitzki to compete for a championship for the next three seasons if they stay healthy. It seems likely he’ll stick around as long as they’re in the race.

If he does, playing three more seasons after this one, it’s possible that Nowitzki could squeak by Wilt Chamberlain and crack the top-five on the all-time scoring list.

If not, sixth-place ain’t bad.

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