CHARLOTTE – At the very end of Sunday’s night’s All-Star game, Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki was accepting handshakes, hugs and congratulatory remarks from almost all 25 of the world’s greatest players who he shared the big stage with at the Spectrum Center.
No one had to tell Nowitzki that this would be his last All-Star game. He’s already accepted that conclusion. So, before soaking in all of the theatrics after the ultimate playground-style game, the 21-year veteran made sure he gave the sellout crowd something to remember him by.
Not only did Nowitzki make his first 3-pointer mere seconds after he entered the game for the initial time late in the first quarter. But he also drained another 3-pointer mere seconds later.
And to top that off, Nowitzki used his talents to drill yet another 3-pointer early in the second quarter that had the crowd buzzing. If was as if Nowitzki knew if this was going to be his final All-Star game, he was going to go down swinging, as he played only four first-half minutes, was 3-of-3 from 3-point range and finished with nine points for Team Giannis during their 178-164 loss to Team LeBron.
“That was obviously awesome,” Nowitzki said in his postgame press conference. “I wanted to just play a few minutes and hoist up a three, and that’s exactly what happened.”
In analyzing his three threes, Nowitzki said: “The first one I was a little deep and it was my last time on the stage, so I’m going to go for it and it went in. The second one I stepped back a little more to see what happens, and it went in, too. “
And the third triple tickled the twine, too, like Nowitzki has so many times since he left his home country of Germany in 1998 and helped turn the Mavs’ franchise around.
When Nowitzki first entered the game with 56.6 seconds remaining in the first quarter, it was as if his teammates were deliberately searching for him and wanted to get him a field goal attempt or two right away. But that apparently was not the case.
“Honestly, I don’t think we ran more than four plays all night,” Nowitzki said. “We were all kind of playing off of each other. It was the greatest players out there, we have a game, so we obviously know how to play off each other.
“Blake (Griffin) wanted to give me that one shot, so he kind of dribbled it at me and kind of flipped it back. But that wasn’t really scripted. It’s just he wanted to really give me a shot, and I took it and it went in. it felt good. It felt good.”
The past three days have been a feel-good weekend for Nowitzki. He was the honorary coach for the World Team in Friday’s Rising Stars game, and he finished tied for sixth place in the 3-Point Contest on Saturday.
And on Sunday, Nowitzki once again showed the world why he’s one of the greatest players to ever lace up a pair of sneakers. Thus, it was a night of reflection, a night of memories, a night for Nowitzki to get teary-eyed because something he’s done 14 times – make an All-Star appearance – will not happen again.
“I think all of that is going to be emotional once I sit back and have some time to think,” Nowitzki said. “Right now I was still out there, I was competing, it was fun, the whole weekend was great.
“They had me running around like a chicken with a head cut off. Friday I was coaching, yesterday I was shooting, and today I was competing, so it was fun. I’m going to soak it all in, but I think I’ll get more emotional later on once it’s all said and done.”
As far as it really being all said and done, Nowitzki was mum again on if this is his final NBA season. He’s not ready to have that conversation just yet.
“Nothing that happened today changed my mind, if you’re asking that,” Nowitzki said. “I want to see how the rest of the season obviously goes.
“So hopefully I can feel even better than the last few weeks and we’ll see how it goes. We’ll see how my body feeling, and if I just feel I can’t do it no more, then it’s time to go.”
The NBA presented Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade and Nowitzki with a commemorative All-Star jersey between the third and fourth quarters. Nowitzki noted that was an added nice touch to a successful weekend.
“It was just a fun all around weekend for me,” he said. “It was a pleasure to compete with these guys one more time on this stage.
“I got honored between the third and fourth quarters, and that was emotional. It was a great, great weekend for me and I’m ready to go home.”
But before Nowitzki went home, there was some more handshakes and hugs to receive, and more congratulatory remarks to soak in.
“It’s been emotional and unreal,” Nowitzki said. “To get respect from your peers, from fellow competitors that you faced so many times, from the fans, from coaches around the league who came up to me.
“So it’s been really humbling, and I’m soaking it all in.”
NOTES: Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan turned 56 on Sunday. So what does the G.O.A.T (greatest of all time) get for his birthday? “It’s hard to buy something for a guy that can get anything he wants, and he has everything he wants,” Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “I don’t know. No clue.” As does many players, Nowitzki has a fond All-Star memory of playing against Jordan. “I can always say I played against Michael Jordan and I can always say I was in Michael Jordan’s last All-Star game back in Atlanta (in 2003), which was a blast. Just to be able to tell my kids and my grandkids one day that I played against the greatest of all-time is a pleasure.”. ,Mavs rookie point guard Luka Doncic has a lot of respect for Atlanta Hawks rookie point guard Trae Young. “He’s an amazing player,” Doncic said. “He can pass the ball, he can shoot the ball, he can penetrate. He’s going to be really good.” Doncic and Young will always be joined at the hip. Doncic was drafted third overall by the Hawks last June, and Young was drafted fifth overall by the Mavericks. Shortly thereafter, the two players’ draft rights were traded for each other. . .Nowitzki took time to discuss how busy Doncic has been during All-Star Weekend. “He’s been great, too,” Nowitzki said. “He’s been soaking it all in. They’re keeping him really busy with appearances left and right. But he’s 19. You don’t get tired at 19, so he should be good.”. .The pre-game routine for Nowitzki has obviously changed over the past two decades. “I get to the arena at 3 o’clock to start my pre-game – from getting worked on, massage, rehab, and do some balance stuff and lift a little bit to get ready,” Nowitzki said. “Then I shoot, and them more ice and stem. Obviously, the routine has changed over the years. Usually in my 20’s we used to go to the gym with 90 (minutes) on the clock on the second bus, got dressed, hooped. And now you’ve got to do all of this extra stuff, which sometimes gets a little old, but you still got to enjoy it.” By the way, Nowitzki was busy going through his pre-game routine before the 3-Point Contest on Saturday that he missed Luka Doncic’s appearance in the Skills Challenge. . .A game of Name That Tune, featuring Nowitzki and Doncic, was shown on the Jumbotron during a timeout in the third quarter and drew a lot of laughter. ..There are 56 players currently in the NBA who either grew up in North Carolina or attended a college in North Carolina. That’s the most from any state. . .Count Dirk Nowitzki among those who were surprised the Mavs were able to acquire Kristaps Porzingis in that Jan. 31 blockbuster trade with the New York Knicks. That means the 23-year old Porzingis will get to play with the 19-year old Luka Doncic for perhaps the next 15-20 years. “I think the Kristaps deal came out of nowhere,” Nowitzki said. “I think we’re all kind of surprised by it that he was available, but we’re obviously hoping to pair those two together for the next decade plus. They’re both really young, they’re both amazing talents, and they both have franchise talent.”. .Spike Lee, Chris Tucker, Miles Brown, 2 Chanz, Fat Joe, Ludacris, Janelle Monae, JB Smoove, Meek Mill, J. Cole, Jamie Foxx were some of the entertainers who attended Sunday’s game.