Before facing off against Dirk Nowitzki in his 20th season, Kevin Durant speaks on the legacy of Dirk and why he’s special to him.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Wilt Chamberlain. Shaquille O’Neal.
For decades, being seven-foot tall in the NBA meant you were a banger down low that dunked, blocked shots, and defended the paint. You were by far, the tallest player on the team and shooting outside of the paint was unheard of.
Until a new age of big man came into the league.
In 1998, a seven-foot German kid by the name of Dirk Nowitzki came into the league where nobody knew the exact potential he possessed.
Three years later, Nowitzki was averaging over 21 points a night and had admirers across the world. One of those admirers was a 12-year-old kid on the outskirts of Washington D.C. by the name of Kevin Durant.
"“I can remember I was 12 years old and the Mavs were playing. They had the green jerseys on. I forgot who they was playing. It was the first time I was really really starting to lock in and pay attention to Dirk I was 12. Make him sound old,” Durant said jokingly as we talked about Dirk on Monday morning."
After missing last year’s matchup in Dallas, Durant spent time after shootaround Monday morning on the bench getting his knees iced after his normal shooting routine. When we started talking about Dirk, his face turned to a grin as Dirk isn’t just another legend to him.
“Dirk is a little bit more special to me when it comes to players I admire and look up to compared to some other guys that retired” -KD
“Dirk is a little bit more special to me when it comes to players I admire and look up to compared to some other guys that retired,” Durant said. “It was just this myth around being a seven-foot shooter. In my neighborhood you heard about being that tall and being a shooter, they was like hell nah we have never seen anything like that before.”
When people say Dirk Nowitzki changed the game, it really isn’t an overstatement.
Durant went on to recall a time when one of his friends was giving him a stat line update on the night Nowitzki had because Durant had been following Nowitzki’s career by then.
Like Mike? Nope. For Durant, it was ‘Like Dirk’.
“One of my friends was like, the Diggler got 28 in the first half. I was like s*** that is a lot of points. I watched it back. One leggers, pull-up jump shots, threes, pump fake, one dribble pull-ups. All the fundamentals. I was like, that’s who I want to try and be like,” Durant said.
Now, the seven-foot, sharpshooting Durant is at the climax of his career.
Coming off his first championship, Durant has already built a Hall of Fame resume during his short time in the league. Rookie of the Year, 8x All-Star, Finals MVP, 4x scoring champ, 7x All-NBA, and the 2013-14 MVP of the league.
From 12 years old and watching Nowitzki in his third year in the league to now being 29 years old and playing against Dirk in his 20th season, Durant is valuing every moment of the precious time on the court together. Because we all know, Dirk Nowitzki is a rare breed.
“He’s different and I really appreciate the work he puts in and the passion he has for the game,” Durant said. “Being a leader in this Dallas community and this organization. He has sacrificed so much for these people here as far as his contract. Wanting to make sure the organization is left in good hands. Always supporting the new guys coming in, young guys coming in.”
When you talk to players across the league about the legacy of Dirk Nowitzki, his loyalty and dedication to the city of Dallas is almost always brought up, but his financial sacrifices are rarely brought up.
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Back in 2014, Nowitzki went from making an annual salary of around $22 million to $8 million and $7 million over the next two seasons. Then, in the summer of 2016, Nowitzki signed a two-year, $10 million deal to stay in Dallas.
Nowitzki has literally given up tens of millions of dollars throughout the course of his career all for the better of the franchise. Fans and media notice it, but hearing it come from the mouth of a superstar holds a different type of weight.
For Durant, it’s simple.
Dirk is not only who he wanted to be like, but the person you would want to be your franchise player.
“He is what you want in a superstar, in a franchise player and I’m glad that he is still in the league. I’m sure in a few years when it is all said and done, we are going to miss him a lot,” Durant said.
Kevin, we will all miss him more than he probably knows.