DALLAS — Only five men in the history of the NBA have done it, but with a strong close to his career 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki could be poised to join that exclusive brotherhood before his playing days are done.
In the annuals of the league’s scoring ranks only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Wilt Chamberlain have ever amassed at least 30,000 points in their illustrious careers. But, after becoming just the 17th member of the 25,000-point club on April 14 with 19 points in a 107-89 road win in New Orleans, Nowitzki could be positioned to be the first European to reach the rarest of milestones.
“It’s tough. I mean, I don’t know how much time it takes for me to get five (thousand), but I’m going to be around,” Nowitzki said after becoming only the ninth player in league history to score 25,000 points while also collecting 9,000 rebounds in his career.
“If I feel like I have obviously around the All-Star break,” he added after battling back from preseason arthroscopic knee surgery. “Before that I was questioning it a little bit. I was a step slow and running up and down wasn’t really much fun anymore. But, once I started a little bouncing and got a little bounce again in my step, it’s been fun again and I’ve been playing better. Still, I would love to be a little more consistent again next year, so I’m going to put in some work … like I did last year. A lot of running, a lot of lifting, coming (to training camp) in good shape like I did last year, and hopefully I don’t have surgery on the knee and be consistent and have a good year.”
Nowitzki sits 4,949 points away from 30,000 for his career entering next season. Still, while heading into an offseason in which he will turn 35 years old, the future Hall of Famer admits that reaching 30K would be no easy feat.
In his best scoring season, when he averaged 26.6 points an outing in the 2005-06 campaign, Nowitzki tallied 2,151 points while playing in 81 games. He’s also eclipsed 2,000 points in four other seasons, giving him a realistic shot at further cementing his place in league lore while ascending up the all-time scoring list.
“Phenomenal really when you think about the number of years, the sustained level of excellence and the exclusive club that he joins,” Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said with high praise for his franchise player. “Only 17 guys in history, it’s a phenomenal achievement. … He’s a player who has revolutionized the game in many ways. He’s the only 7-foot-1 guy that has ever played the game the way he does, and that is by being good around the basket, being great in mid-range, being great a long distance away, driving it and having the ability to hit any kind of off-balanced, unorthodox shot possible. He’s not only a great player, he’s also a pioneer and innovator in this game, and he’ll go down in history as one of the guys who really changed the game.”
He added: “There’s so many things that Dirk has stood for in 15 years that are just the things that are good about the game and about competing and about loyalty and integrity. It’s hard to go through the list really, but he’s been all those things. And as he showed, he’s still got a lot left in the tank.”
Still, after playing in just 53 games this season and totaling 917 points — his lowest total since his rookie year — the 7-footer admits that he still has a long road to travel if he is to reach the 30,000-point mark. More importantly, Nowitzki hopes to return to an elite level after seeing his consecutive All-Star appearances streak end at 11 and the Mavericks’ stretch of 12 straight playoffs also draw to a close.
“Yeah, I mean, it would sound nice, but I don’t know if that would be something that would keep me going on one leg at 41,” Nowitzki joked as he shifted his focus from that mythical 30,000 figure. “If it’s not fun anymore to drag around just to get to 30, I don’t think that’s what I’m about. If it comes in the next couple of years, that’ll be great. But if not, that’s fine, too. You know, I play to win here my last couple of years. I have one more year on my contract and then I’m 36. Probably sign one more deal and then just probably wind it down, so we’ll just have to wait and see how long it goes. But as long as I feel like this, I can still feel like I can play some decent basketball and contribute to a good team, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens this summer.”