Next year will be Dirk Nowitzki’s 21st season in the NBA. It will be yet another historic feat for a player who has done nothing but make history.
Dirk Nowitzki wasn’t the first to shoot a fade-away jump shot. Far from it. Players like Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson perfected it long before he did. But his fade-away came with a twist: off of one leg, his lanky, seven-foot frame lifting the ball high above his head where no defender could possibly touch it. Dirk took a shot that was fairly common and made it his own. Now players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant have imitated his shot.
Dirk Nowitzki has a way of bending the game of basketball into his own goofy, gangly style. He’ll do that again when he plays his 21st season in the NBA this October.
Only three players have tallied twenty-one seasons in the NBA–Robert Parish, Kevin Willis, and Kevin Garnett. Nowitzki will join them when he suits up for his first game next year, but with his own Dirk-like twist. He’ll be the only player in NBA history to play 21 seasons with one team.
The likelihood of this happening ever again is slim. Player movement is more frenetic than ever. Even the best players move teams constantly. Kobe Bryant played 20 seasons, all with the Lakers, but only with a little blind loyalty from the L.A. front office and ownership.
Dirk and the Mavericks had a special situation. Mark Cuban bought the team just as Nowitzki was coming into his own as a player. He and Dirk have been on this journey together, facing heartbreak in 2006 and unmitigated joy in 2011. They showed loyalty to each other in a business that has become increasingly disloyal.
Maybe Dirk would have gone to another team if the Mavericks hadn’t won a championship in 2011. It’s possible he would have signed somewhere else, or asked for a trade. Luckily, that scenario never happened, and we get to enjoy the victory lap of one of the greatest basketball players of all-time.
Dirk Nowitzki has been to the mountaintop and trudged through the valley. We’ve witnessed it all over the last twenty years. He’s sixth all-time in scoring, and has scored more points than any foreign-born player in NBA history. Nowitzki is a champion and a pro’s pro. He’s one of only eleven players to win the regular season MVP and Finals MVP.
Now Dirk will put his own twist on what would have already been a historic season. He’ll stand alone as the only man to play 21 seasons for the same NBA franchise. Nowitzki has shown over and over again why he’s special. This accomplishment just emphasizes it. So make sure to enjoy next season, Mavs fans, no matter what the record ends up being. It’ll be a great year no matter what, because you get to watch Dirk Nowitzki play one last time.