Rick Carlisle showed up with an old friend for Dirk Nowitzki’s street-name unveiling.
More accurately, he was wearing an old friend. A stinky old friend. It smelled like garbage, although he used a less-than-G-rated word to describe it.
He came to the latest tribute to Nowitzki’s greatness for the Mavericks, the city of Dallas and the NBA in the same suit that he wore on June 12, 2011 – the Game 6 victory in the NBA finals that gave the Mavericks their only NBA championship.
“If this suit looks a little scraggly . . . it’s been sitting in my closet, champagne-soaked, Miller Lite-soaked, Mountain Dew-soaked,” Carlisle said. “I never changed the knot (in the tie).”
Asked what he was saving the ensemble for, Carlisle said: “I wasn’t sure, but I have it with two other very special suits. One is my wedding suit and one is the suit I wore on our visit to the White House to meet President Obama in January, 2012. So I got three special ones. Who knows what will happen with this one next?”
Maybe Nowitzki’s hall-of-fame induction. As he said, who knows?
What we do know is that players, coaches, former teammates and associates from throughout Nowitzki’s 21 NBA seasons showed up Wednesday when the street that runs in front of American Airlines Center was renamed Nowitzki Way. It was a wonderful celebration of the most beloved athlete in Dallas sports history, when all things are considered.
He had wild success. He was a fan favorite through good times and bad. He embraced emotional distress publicly. He was not only the face of a franchise, but often the voice, the soul and the heart of the Mavericks.
It all came as no surprise to the man who mined Nowitzki out of Wurzburg, Germany back in the late ‘90s. Donnie Nelson was just starting his career as a basketball executive and was willing to hang his reputation on a tall, gangly dude from overseas and a scrawny, floppy-haired point guard named Steve Nash.
Nelson, now the Mavericks president of basketball operations, never doubted Nowitzki.
“With a work ethic like no other, 7-feet tall and a guy who could shoot better than anybody else that size – that says it all,” Nelson said Wednesday. “And it’s not just about what he’s done on the court. He takes every bit as much pride in what he’s done in the community.”
That’s something you can’t help but respect and love about Nowitzki.
And it has had a carryover, Carlisle said, for this year’s team. Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis – two Europeans that are similar in talent and drive to what Nowitzki had 20 years ago – had a chance to see a lot of Nowitzki last season.
‘It was great last year that Luka and KP and Maxi (Kleber) and (Jalen) Brunson and all our younger guys got a chance to spend a few months with Dirk before he retired from the game, just to see on a day-to-day basis what greatness looks like in terms of the little things that add up to a sum total of a special athlete and a special person,” Carlisle said. “Even though Dirk was at the end of his career, he still oozed that kind of special feeling that made him ultimately the athlete and person that we all have such great respect for.”
Several current and former Mavericks were at the festivities, including Devin Harris, who spent a large portion of his three stints with the Mavericks shooting 3-pointers before, during and after practice with Nowitzki.
They gleefully traded their money back and forth, depending on who won those shooting exhibitions.
“I think this is very fitting,” Harris said. “I’m from Milwaukee and Green Bay is my team. We have (Mike) Holmgren Way. This is what you do.
“And Dirk has given so much to so many people – both on the court and off – that this is a great way to give back to him.”
This won’t be the last tribute to Dirk. There will be statues and who knows what else that will be coming in the future.
The reality is that naming a street or doing anything else for Nowitzki pales in comparison to what he’s done for the Mavericks, the city and the NBA. He’s the No. 6 all-time scorer in the league. But he rates higher than that when it comes to being an awesome human being.
“He’s done an amazing amount … but I’m more excited and even more optimistic about what he’ll do from this day going forward,” Carlisle said. “The fact that he wants to stay in Dallas and make this his permanent home and he’s going to continue to be firmly rooted in what’s going on here is great news, the best possible news, for the city of Dallas.”
And by the way, Nowitzki playfully acknowledged that the suit Carlisle wore Wednesday looked like it was something that should have been worn in 2011.
“When he first walked in, I thought: he could have picked a better suit,” Nowitzki said. “That’s a little wide. You know, nowadays, everybody goes for the slim cut. It looked a little wide. But he made it look great. And obviously, the story made it even more special.”
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