DALLAS – Let me just say a few words about the Dirk Nowitzki that I know.
One of the mantras of schools and police departments across this great nation is that if you see something, say something. Well, let me tell you a little something that I saw every time I was in the presence of Dirk.
This is a man who probably never met a stranger, although many of them approach him on a constant basis in hopes of getting that rare autograph or obtaining that treasured selfie. To those fans, they probably felt like they just nabbed a coveted pair of Baryshnikov’s ballet shoes, or a piece of artwork from Rembrandt.
You, sir, put the ‘I’ in love, the ‘p’ in peaceful, and the ‘s’ in soul. That’s why so many people across the globe desire to be in your company. They simply love your peaceful soul.
At one point in recent years, I had the pleasure of attending 202 consecutive Dallas Mavericks games. I could have easily given some of those assignments to a co-worker, but I was afraid you were going to do something magical in a game that night, so I never gave up a chance to see you play.
What many of us realized a long time ago is that watching greatness never gets old, never gets tiring. So I wanted to savor every one of your games.
Dirk, you were our Michael Jordan, our Tom Brady, our Babe Ruth, our Wayne Gretzky, our Bjorn Borg, our Pele, our Arnold Palmer, our A. J. Foyt, our Usain Bolt. And for every jump shot, touchdown pass, home run, slapshot, ace, corner kick, hole in one, left turn or world record that those gentlemen perfected, in our eyes, you did it better.
Of all the games you’ve played, I had the pleasure of being in the arena for more of your games than any other beat writer. That means I probably asked you more dumb questions than any other beat writer.
But you know what, you never belittled me. You simply smiled and gave some of the best answers a reporter could have imagined. And for that I say thank you.
Dirk, most of the 203 teammates that you played with during your 21 years in the NBA probably quickly realized that you are the Ellen DeGeneres of the NBA, a comedian at heart who loves to pull pranks on people and are always making folks laugh, and always making them feel they are the most important person in the room. And like Ellen always says at the end of her show – be kind to one another – the Lord didn’t make them any kinder than when he molded you.
In an era where pro athletes are always chasing the next (almighty) dollar, you took millions less – on multiple occasions – so you could remain in your adopted hometown of Dallas and continue being a true Texan at heart.
In essence, to paraphrase poet and civil rights activist Dr. Maya Angelou, when someone shows you a side of them the first time, believe them. What you showed us the first time reminded me of some of the main characters in the Wizard of Oz.
You showed us that you had the courage of a lion, the heart of a tin man and the brain of a scarecrow. You filled the Dallas skyline with grace and mercy, and grit and determination, and joy and happiness.
And for really, really tall men in the NBA, you effectively moved the goal post and showed them that it was indeed OK to float out to the 3-point line and hoist up some shots from downtown. That piece of maneuvering by you forever changed the game and made it much, much more palatable for everyone to digest.
Plus, your body of work in the community and while visiting ailing kids at children’s hospitals – mostly when cameras are not around — is so heartwarming. And yes, we also get emotional and teary-eyed when we see those pictures.
In closing, Dirk, your effervescent smile and your self-deprecating personality will forever be logged in our memory bank. We like it that you don’t take yourself too seriously.
You, Dirk, are truly a role model who has set good examples for all of us to follow. And we admire you for that and we’re so glad that we will be intrinsically tied together.
Absolutely nothing against Mike, but, for my two cents, I wish we could all Be Like Dirk. You showed us a side of yourself the first time we saw you, and we’re all glad we believed you.