DALLAS — There’s not much left to add to his future Hall of Fame resume, but 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki says his competitive juices are still boiling within as he tries to lead the Dallas Mavericks back to the NBA championship.
Forced to sit out the first 27 games of the 2012-13 season after arthroscopic knee surgery, Nowitzki would eventually recapture his form before seeing the Mavericks miss the playoffs for the first time in 13 years thanks to a 41-41 mark. He’d also see his own consecutive streak of All-Star appearances end at 11 straight seasons before becoming just the 17th member of the exclusive 25,000-point club on April 14 with 19 points in a 107-89 road win in New Orleans.
Now, after completing his 15th season, a reflective Nowitzki says he still has work to do to cement his legacy amongst the game’s all-time greats, although what he’s stood for speaks for itself.
“I don’t really know what I want my legacy to be,” the 7-footer said during a recent interview with ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM. “I want to be known as the guy that always wants to be there for the teammates and for the franchise. You know, a guy that wants to win; a guy that wants to play hurt, sick, whatever it takes to be out there for us to get the win, so that’s really all I was worried about. I wasn’t worried about any TV ads on the side or anything like that. I always played for this franchise to be the best franchise we can be and for winning. That was really all it was about.”
Nowitzki is admittedly coming off a disappointing year after surgery in the preseason, playing in just 53 games this season — his lowest since suiting up in only 47 outings during his rookie campaign — and leading the Mavericks with 17.3 points a contest, which was also his lowest scoring total since his first season. Now, in addition to becoming a father for the first time this offseason, Nowitzki will also turn 35 before heading into the last year of his contract.
Still, with a desire to return to the basketball mountaintop just two seasons after seizing the Finals MVP while bringing the first championship in the Mavs’ franchise history to Dallas, Nowitzki says he remains the ultimate competitor. And it’s that fiery competitiveness that Nowitzki sees powering him during the latter stage of his career.
“Well, I’ve got one more year on this contract. By then I’ll be 36, and then I think I’ll sign another deal,” Nowitzki explained. “It depends. Two or three years, I’m not sure, but as long as it’s still fun to me, the competing part. Sometimes I think the actual game part is always going to be great, but the around stuff gets more as you get older — the fitness stuff, the weightlifting, the extra running in the summertime. … I think that could get old, but playing the game will always be great.”
He added: “I do love to compete still. Everybody in the league is a competitor. Little things like shooting games after practice with the young guys, or you play a little three-on-three after practice. I mean, all those little stuff. I still love to compete. I love to win. If it’s a game of pool or anything, I still love to compete. And so I want to ride it obviously as long as I can, if the body stays healthy and it’s still fun.”