Dirk Nowitzki is kicking off his 20th NBA season tonight, every single one of which has come with the Mavericks. Only Kobe Bryant has played as many seasons for just one franchise. Nowitzki’s is an accomplishment of historic magnitude; you just don’t find many players with the combination of talent, longevity, and loyalty required to achieve that feat. You just don’t.

This season is about many things, and celebrating Nowitzki’s 20th is chief among them. This isn’t exactly a victory lap by any means; the guy can still play. Along his journey this season, the Big German has got the chance to make even more history by continuing to climb up the all-time scoring list. As it stands now, That Dude is No. 6 all-time.

Player Career Points
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 38,287
Karl Malone 36,928
Kobe Bryant 33,643
Michael Jordan 32,292
Wilt Chamberlain 31,419
Dirk Nowitzki 30,260

Nowitzki needs to score 1,160 points to pass Wilt Chamberlain, one of the greatest scorers ever, on the all-time list. Fifteen years ago it would have been impossible to even fathom that Nowitzki would one day have a legitimate chance to pass Wilt, a guy who once averaged 50 points per game in a season. The Mavs legend himself has said he never thought his name would be mentioned among the all-time greats.

Nevertheless, here Nowitzki sits, within striking distance of one of the most dominant players in NBA history. We in Dallas have long known how great Dirk is, but it’s always cool to see when national guys give the German legend some love. Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey put together a great Twitter thread about Dirk a couple weeks ago to put into context just how transcendent he is. Click the link to see the full thread. Grab some popcorn and enjoy.

Fun read, wasn’t it?

So now here we sit on opening night, with Nowitzki 1,160 points away from becoming the fifth-leading scorer in NBA history. (It’s still kind of crazy to type.) Does he really have a shot to do it at his age? I think so. Last season he scored just 769 points but he missed 28 games. The previous season, he scored 1,372 points in 75 appearances. If he splits the difference, he’ll make history.

It’s tough to predict how many games Dirk will play this season because you never know how health and resting will shake out, but for the sake of this exercise, let’s assume Nowitzki will play every single game. Here’s when he can pass Wilt, depending on his scoring average.

Points Per Game Date He’ll Pass Wilt Opponent
14.2 April 10
16.0 March 24
18.0 March 6

The world will be a better place if we can get 82 games of No. 41 — hopefully his nagging sore Achilles is a thing of the past and the legend can stay scratch-free through his 20th season. And the world will be even better if he can score at that kind of clip. It’s not totally out of the question, either; he scored 14.2 points per game last season, after all, limited by injury for most of the season, and he scored 18.3 points per game the season before that. It’s entirely possible that he could score 15-plus simply by hitting a bunch of trailing 3s thanks to Dennis Smith Jr.’s ability to push the pace.

It’s remarkable that after all this time Dirk is still scoring at a high level, and that he still has the chance to continue to make even more history.

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