This will be another historic season for Dirk Nowitzki.

Barring severe injury, the Big German is set to move up to at least seventh place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Think about that.

After passing Jerry West, Kevin Garnett, Reggie Miller, Alex English, John Havlicek, Dominique Wilkins, and finally Oscar Robertson last season, next in Nowitzki’s sights is two-time NBA champion Hakeem Olajuwon. The center, currently ninth on the list, sits 160 points ahead of Nowitzki. Just ahead of him are fellow big men Elvin Hayes and Moses Malone, both of whom Dirk will almost certainly overtake this season.

NBA All-Time Points Leaders

Rank Player Points
1 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 38,387
2 Karl Malone 36,928
3 Michael Jordan 32,292
4 Kobe Bryant 31,700
5 Wilt Chamberlain 31,419
6 Shaquille O’Neal 28,596
7 Moses Malone 27,409
8 Elvin Hayes 27,313
9 Hakeem Olajuwon 26,946
10 Dirk Nowitzki 26,786

So the question looms: When will Dirk pass them? It’s a challenge to figure out because you can never forecast injuries or rest nights. The Mavs are much deeper this season, which means head coach Rick Carlisle might be able to afford resting his star every now and then on the second leg of a back-to-back. In addition, Dirk might simply play fewer minutes this season, meaning his per-game scoring average might drop a point or two from last year’s mark of 21.7.

Still, since the schedule is out and all, to settle my curiosity I took a look and ran the numbers. I ran three simple simulations. Let’s assume the durable Deutschman will suit up every single game of the season, averaging 18, 20, or 22 points for the year. The final average would be an absolutely remarkable points total to put up if he does indeed play fewer minutes per game, but this is the top-10 of the all-time scoring list we’re talking about. Dirk is a remarkable player.

Below are the dates. You’ll without question want to pay close attention to the scoring lists this season, because if Nowitzki does stay healthy, he’s going to pass the next three names in rapid-fire fashion. The gaps between names at the top of any list are always going to be small. Before long, a seven-foot jump-shooter from Germany will be the seventh highest-scoring player in NBA history.

If Dirk Averages 18 ppg

Name Date Opponent
9. Hakeem Olajuwon Nov. 13
8. Elvin Hayes Dec. 23
7. Moses Malone Jan. 4
Points to pass Shaq: 335

If Dirk Averages 20 ppg

Name Date Opponent
9. Hakeem Olajuwon Nov. 13
8. Elvin Hayes Dec. 17
7. Moses Malone Dec. 28
Points to pass Shaq: 171

If Dirk Averages 22 ppg

Name Date Opponent
9. Hakeem Olajuwon Nov. 11
8. Elvin Hayes Dec. 13
7. Moses Malone Dec. 22
Points to pass Shaq: 7

Again, you’ll want to pay close attention to the scoring list during the season, because once December rolls around, Dirk will be looking to make his move up the list. And it’s important you do, because just like it’s always been, Nowitzki will be the last guy to talk about it. Heck, after he passed Oscar Robertson in April, busting into the top-10 scorers ever, he wasn’t going to boast.

“It’s definitely surreal,” he told reporters. “Passing the Big O and knowing that only nine guys ever in this league scored more than me — that’s crazy to think. From where I came from, a little dump in Wurzburg, Germany, it’s been an amazing ride. So, you know, hopefully I can have a couple more good years and we’ll see where I end up.”

At this rate, it’s looking like Dirk will finish up just ahead of Shaq, but don’t rule anything out. He could very well crack 30,000 points for his career and end up passing Wilt Chamberlain and some of the other most harrowed scorers ever, possibly even including his contemporary Kobe. But he still has a long way to go. For this season, just sit back and enjoy the ride.

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