ALLEN – Even though he’ll turn 39 years old on June 19, Dallas Mavericks superstar forward Dirk Nowitzki admittedly is a big kid at heart.
That became very apparent on Tuesday when Nowitzki was the major attraction at the Mavs Hoop Camp at the Life Time Fitness in Allen. Fitting right in with the campers – many some 30 years younger than him — the 19-year veteran described his appearance at the camp as his unique way of paying it forward.
“When I was little I will always remember – I was (attending a camp) with the German National Team when I was probably about 11 or 12 or 13 – and we were in camp and they all told us to sit down and in walked some of the players from the German National Team at the time, from the A team,” Nowitzki said. “I’ll always remember that for that experience for the rest of my life, meeting some of those guys who we looked up to at the time.
“So any time I’m in town and I’m able to come and see some kids and see the smiles on their faces, it’s awesome. This is obviously the kickoff camp here for this summer, so I’m glad I’m here.”
Nowitzki played three games of Knockout against the young campers and said he needed “some oxygen’’ after the third game. He also played a game of Knockout against the coaches who were working the camp.
Overall, Nowitzki finished 2-2 in the Knockout contests, with one of the wins coming in a very competitive finale against Matthew Parada. An eight-year old who attends Canyon Creek Christian Academy in Garland, Parada explained that the reason he lost to the Mavs’ all-time leading scorer is because Nowitzki “just kept on shooting and not giving up.”
But a defiant Parada insists if he had a rematch with Nowitzki that he could “maybe” come out victorious. Parada added that “it could be possible. I just have to believe in myself.”
While Parada admits he was intimidated by Nowitzki’s sheer presence, Myson Scott said that was not the case with him. The 13-year old who attends Evans Middle School in McKinney, wasn’t shaking in his sneakers when the only person standing in the way of him winning his Knockout contest was Nowitzki.
Scott went toe-to-toe against Nowitzki all the way until the end of a very challenging back-and-forth battle.
“I missed a three (at the end) and then I should have made the layup, but I missed it,” Scott said. “I thought I had it, but I couldn’t pull it out.”
Following his narrow victory over Scott, Nowitzki said: “I told him I got lucky and to keep working. He’s a heckuva little player… I need an oxygen tank.”
Preston Tarpley didn’t need an oxygen tank to help him dispatch Nowitzki in another Knockout game. Someone else did the honors earlier in that contest, opening the door for the Tarpley to win his game going away.
“I thought I would have been in the finals against Dirk and not against a girl,” said Tarpley, a 10-year old who attends Olson Elementary School in Allen. “It’s a really fun experience playing basketball against famous NBA players and I’m having a good time.”
The main local TV stations and several other area media outlets were on hand for the festivities, primarily because Nowitzki – now in the twilight of his storied career – was in the building. Tarpley had been tipped off the day before that Nowitzki was going to make an appearance at the camp in Allen.
“I barely got any sleep (Monday night),” Tarpley said. “It was fun (playing against Nowitzki) because I was really excited, and I was wondering why there were so many cameras here.”
For the fun-loving Nowitzki, his interaction with the campers takes on a new meaning since he has a three-year old daughter, a two-year old son and a six-month old son.
“Obviously there are more serious times to it than joking, but I still like to play with them as much as I can,” Nowitzki said, referring to his kids. “You need to guide them in the right direction, obviously.
“In weird times in the world where stuff’s happening left and right, you want to direct them in the right way, you want to educate them so they can make the right decisions or the good decisions later on in life. It’s not always easy, I guess, but I try my best.”
Meanwhile, for Scott, he tried his best and came oh so close to upending the NBA’s No. 6 all-time leading scorer.
“It felt good, because he’s one of the greatest players and I love to watch him, so it was good to try to beat him,” Scott said. “He’s one of my role models in basketball and it was cool to meet him.
“(Afterwards) he was like, ‘Good job, and I hope you do better in the rest of your career.’ ‘’
A fixture in the Dallas community who is always willing to offer a helping hand to others less fortunate, Nowitzki realizes the impact he has with the youngsters he comes in contact with. It reminds him of when he was a youngster and the German National Team showed up at one of his camps and the indelible impression they left on him.
“That’s part of the reason why I’m here and why I try to come every summer,” Nowitzki said. “I try to come out and see the kids and play and hopefully create lasting memories for them as well as for me.”
“To lose to a six-year old in Knockout, it’s a blast every time. I love it. I love making the kids happy and seeing kids smile.”