Dallas Mavericks: There Will Only Ever Be One Dirk
For many years of his career, Dirk Nowitzki did not get hardly any respect for his game. Now that he has established himself as one of the best, everyone wants to find “The Next Dirk”. Spoiler alert: You’re not going to find one.
In every sport, there is an unwritten rule that the best way to fully understand someone’s ability is by comparing them to another player from the past or present. Whether it be a pitcher who throws as hard as Roger Clemens, a running back who is as shifty as Barry Sanders, or a kid that can dunk like Vince Carter, these comparisons happen all the time.
Some of the comparisons can be good without causing too much backlash, but some can be very bad for the individuals and for the scouts. Take for example DeShawn Stevenson. Stevenson was a member of the Dallas Mavericks for the year of the championship in 2011 and was a great contributor for that team. However, most people do not know him from his time in the league.
Although the source is questionable, NBADraft.net at one point compared DeShawn Stevenson coming out of high school to…Michael Jordan. That’s right, Stevenson in all of his 13 NBA seasons averaged 7.2 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game for his career. Stevenson obviously never amounted to MJ status, but now that is one of the most well-known things about his career.
The point I am trying to make, before we start talking about Dirk, is that player comparisons have their place as individual areas, but when you compare an entire players style of game to that of a Hall of Famer or legend of the game, the chances of him fulfilling that is incredibly unlikely. When LeBron James came to the league, they refused to compare him to anyone because there was no one to compare him to. This should be standard practice.
Now, let’s talk about Dirk. Dirk Nowitzki is absolutely a one-of-a-kind player that the league had never seen before and will never see again. The versatility of his playmaking and shooting is so far beyond a player of his size and really, anyone, that we have ever seen that sometimes it takes time for people to fully grasp what he is doing.
When Dirk was drafted, his skill set was nothing short of unique. At the time, if you stood 7-feet tall, your back was to the basket and you were using brute strength to get buckets. The occasional player would divert from that style, but none quite like Dirk. Nowitzki was a one of a kind player, but what did the media do?
Well of course they asked him about Detlef Schrempf. Schrempf was a good player who could shoot the ball anywhere on the court at 6’10”. However, the main comparison people were drawing between the two was the German heritage.
Dirk was such an unknown at the time that reporters actually asked if he felt like he could be as good as Detlef Schrempf. Dirk humbly replied with, “I hope so.” Schrempf finished his excellent 16 year career with about half the total points that Nowitzki currently has.
That comparison for Dirk seems like a joke now that we have seen his career, but it is very different when you are sitting on the other side being compared to Dirk and his incredible legacy. Players have come and gone through the NBA who have been told or have been said to play like Dirk and none of them have panned out.
The fact of the matter is that no one can fill Dirk’s shoes as a player, a person, or anything in between. So it is time for these analysts and scouts to cut it out with the comparisons that each player gets as early as high school. Give them time to grow into the player they are going to be, because there will never be another MJ, another Magic, another Bird, another Dirk, etc.
Just because a player is tall, white, foreign, and a good shooter does not immediately make them the next Dirk Nowitzki. Just because a kid likes to fadeaway doesn’t mean his shot is comparable to the one-legged fader we have seen in Dallas the last 20 years. It is not Dirk.
Next: The Past and the Future: Looking at the Mavs Alma Mater's
So the next time you hear Dirk’s name thrown around like a commonly used adjective, remember that Kristaps Porzingis, Mehmet Okur, Enes Kanter, and even Lauri Markkanen are their own players and have their own skill set. They just weren’t lucky enough to get Dirk’s.