Lack of All-Star Talent Around Dirk Nowitzki Further Evidence of his Greatness

Feb 1, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 1, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

Dirk Nowitzki has put together quite the career. The fact that he has had little All-Star talent around him in comparison to other recent greats only bolsters his résumé.

There’s no denying the greatness of Dirk Nowitzki.

He’s sixth all-time in scoring behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and Wilt Chamberlain. He’s an NBA champion, Finals MVP, and regular season MVP. He’s only player in NBA history to record at least 25k points, 10k rebounds, 1k blocks, and 1k three-pointers in his career, and a 50-40-90 club member. He revolutionized the power forward position…the list goes on.

But despite all of those accolades, at times Nowitzki gets lost in the shuffle when comparing some of the other greats of his era. It’s a little strange, as the Nowitzki-led Dallas Mavericks have generally been one of the most successful franchises since the year 2000. Nowitzki steered his team to 11 straight 50-win seasons from the start of the new millennium to the time they won the NBA Championship in 2011, and they reached the mark again last season. The Mavericks have had only two sub-.500 seasons since Nowitzki was drafted, and they were his first two years in the league.

Pretty impressive stuff, especially when you start to look at the level of talent around Nowitzki over the years compared to the guys who have received the bulk of the attention in the post-MJ landscape. In 18 seasons as a professional, Nowitzki has had a total of four teammates make the All-Star team: Michael Finley (2000 and 2001), Steve Nash (2002 and 2003), Josh Howard (2007), and Jason Kidd (2010).

Michael Finley was great, but Nowitzki was still a youngster trying to find his way in the NBA when he was at his peak. Steve Nash wasn’t quite the force with the Mavericks as he would later become in Phoenix, and, well, Josh Howard is Josh Howard. Dallas was the league’s best team in 2007, making Howard the All-Star equivalent of say, Kyle Korver of last year’s Atlanta Hawks team. Jason Kidd was 36-years old when he made the All-Star team with the Mavericks in 2010, averaging 10.3 points and 9.1 assists on 42% shooting from the field.

Not to disparage that group, but it’s fair to say they compare unfavorably to the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Kyrie Irving. Kevin Love hasn’t made the All-Star team in his two seasons playing alongside LeBron, but the argument could certainly be made that even he is a better player than anyone Dirk has shared a uniform with.

Then of course there’s Tim Duncan, who has had an All-Star teammate on 13 occasions. Early on he played with David Robinson, a 21-point, 10-rebound, 3-block a night for his career big man who helped Duncan to two titles. After that he was flanked primarily by Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli, who while not quite on par with some of the guys Kobe and LeBron have had at their disposal are future Hall of Famers and two of the best international talents the NBA has ever seen. The Spurs have again re-tooled with five-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, perhaps the best two-way player in the game.

17 NBA titles have been won since Nowitzki was drafted. 12 of them have been won by teams featuring Duncan, Bryant, or James. There’s no question those three were (mostly) the driving forces of their title-winning squads, but the help around them should not be overlooked. Shaq averaged 29.9 points, 14.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 2.4 blocks in the playoffs during Kobe’s three-peat from 2000-2002. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would have formed quite a formidable 1-2 punch on their own, much less backing up a guy like LeBron. And remember, Duncan hasn’t been the Finals MVP on either of his two most recent title teams.

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Obviously career comparisons ultimately boil down to jewelry, and Kobe, Duncan, and LeBron all have the advantage there over Nowitzki. But the point isn’t to take away from what those three have accomplished, so much as it is to celebrate all that Dirk has been able to do without a superstar beside him. Because there have been lots of great players with similar circumstances but less success.

Reggie Miller spent his whole career with the Indiana Pacers without a second bonafide star, making a few deep postseason runs but running into Michael Jordan in the east, or Shaq and Kobe in the Finals. The same could mostly be said about Allen Iverson. Kevin Garnett couldn’t navigate his way to the Finals in the west with the Timberwolves. Kidd had to come back to Dallas to get his after falling short with the Nets. Karl Malone poured in points with the help of John Stockton, a Hall of Famer, but still couldn’t quite capture the ultimate prize. But Dirk did. He went through a slew of all-time greats en route to the 2011 title: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. All without a second All-Star that season.

Makes you wonder what could have been for the Mavericks and Nowitzki had Steve Nash stayed, or a high-profile free agent had ended up in Dallas.

Next: NBA Trade Deadline: 3 Small Moves the Mavericks Could Make

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