Milestones: Dirk Nowitzki

Watch this clip of Dirk Nowitzki's stellar journey from rookie to NBA Champion, as we celebrate his arrival as the ninth all-time scorer in NBA history.

Dirk Nowitzki is going to pass Elvin Hayes for eighth place on the NBA all-time scoring list tonight, and odds are it’s going to happen very early on.

The Big German, who missed this morning’s shootaround with an illness but will play tonight, per Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle, needs only six points to pass Hayes on the list. Odds are he’ll have passed the Big E before the end of the first quarter against the LA Lakers, so if there’s ever a night to get downtown earlier than normal, this one is it. Hayes scored 27,313 points in his 16-season career and averaged 21.0 points per game. Nowitzki, in his 17th season, averages 22.5 points a night for his career.

He’s already passed Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon this season, and Hayes will be next. The Mavs needed every point Dirk had to offer the night he passed the Dream. Dallas recovered from a slow start against the Sacramento Kings to grab a much-needed win. Dallas will obviously look to start faster against the Lakers tonight than it has in the last few games (and against Sacramento), meaning a hot start for Nowitzki will not only be good for us to witness history, but for his team as well. It was quite a scene at the AAC when Dirk passed Olajuwon, too, and it will be even cooler this evening. By the end of the night, only seven players in league history will have more career points. Think about that.

NBA All-Time Points Leaders
Rank Player Points
1 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 38,387
2 Karl Malone 36,928
3 Kobe Bryant 32,365
4 Michael Jordan 32,292
5 Wilt Chamberlain 31,419
6 Shaquille O’Neal 28,596
7 Moses Malone 27,409
8 Elvin Hayes 27,313
9 Dirk Nowitzki 27,308
10 Hakeem Olajuwon 26,946

It will be fitting, too, that this will happen on a night when Kobe Bryant, one of the last players ahead of him on the scoring list, will be in the building. Bryant passed Michael Jordan for third place on the all-time list earlier this month and has a small chance at moving past Karl Malone for second place in a couple seasons, health permitting. Dirk and Kobe are two of the most significant players of the past 20 years — both have won regular season MVPs, Finals MVPs, and both have more All-Star and All-NBA appearances than you can count. Combined, they’ve scored just under 60,000 points in their careers. The last time that many points got together on one floor was in February 2003, when 39-year-old Malone squared off against the 39-year-old Jordan.

But after Hayes, who’s next for Nowitzki? And when can he pass them?

As it stands now, Dirk needs only 102 points to pass Moses Malone for seventh place all-time. At his current scoring pace of 18.6 points per game, that would mean he’s set to pass Malone on the road versus the Brooklyn Nets on Jan. 5. The Mavs play two consecutive road games prior to that contest, too, so even if Nowitzki ups his pace, it’s likely this could be the last player we see him pass on the list at home this season, and it might be the last time it happens at home ever, if you can believe it.

Next up at No. 6 is Shaquille O’Neal, who sits 1,288 points ahead of Dirk. That Dude would need to average better than 24 points per game and play every single game for the rest of the season in order to pass Shaq Diesel. While we’ve learned over the years that you can never rule anything out as impossible when it comes to Nowitzki, it’s safe to say we’ll have to wait until next season to see him move past possibly the greatest center of his era and one of the most unstoppable players of all-time. At this point, though, we can say the same thing about Dirk.

There’s nearly a 3,000-point gap between O’Neal at six and Wilt Chamberlain at five. Odds are Nowitzki will wind up somewhere in the middle, though a few more seasons of quality ball could potentially put Dirk pass arguably the most dominant player in the history of professional sports. Chamberlain averaged at least 33 points per game seven times in his career, including the 1961-62 season in which he scored 50.4 points a night.

Whether Dirk ever passes Wilt, though, is almost irrelevant. He’s proven himself as worthy of being included in the pantheon of great scorers. It’s impossible to tell the story of the NBA without mentioning Nowitzki, and his movement up the scoring list is only going to make his place in basketball lore that much more prominent. There isn’t much else to say about a player as great as Dirk. Don’t miss your chance to see him leave behind one more NBA legend on his path to basketball immortality.

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