ESPN has ranked Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki the 17th-best player in NBA history.
The site has been ranking the top-100 players in league history over the course of the last few weeks, following a period during which they ranked the top-10 at every position. Last month, the site ranked him the third-best power forward ever, behind only Karl Malone (second) and Tim Duncan. Now we know where he stands among the giants of the game at every position, at least in the eyes of those in Bristol.
As accolades go, this surely means more to us than it does to Nowitzki, but it’s still cool to see his name mentioned among the unquestioned all-time greats of the game. The German himself often sums it up perfectly, expressing his own personal disbelief that a gangly kid from Wurzburg could ever accomplish what he’s accomplished in his 18-year career. Only five players ever have scored more career points than Nowitzki, and he’s widely considered the greatest European player in NBA history. He also has 13 All-Star appearances, 12 All-NBA selections, and a regular season and Finals MVP to his name.
“All he’s done is revolutionize the power forward position as Europe’s greatest-ever import and the sweetest-shooting big man we’ve ever seen,” ESPN’s Marc Stein wrote of the German earlier this month.
Nowitzki finished directly ahead of fellow power forward and Hall of Famer Charles Barkley. Rounding out the players ranked behind him in the top-20 are Utah Jazz Hall of Fame point guard and all-time assists and steals leader John Stockton (19th) and San Antonio Spurs Hall of Fame center and one-time league MVP David Robinson.
The voting was based on both peak performance and career value. While it’s difficult to identify one extended stretch of Nowitzki’s career as a true “peak,” given that he averaged at least 21 points a game for 12 straight seasons, arguably his strongest period came between the 2004-05 season and the 2006-07 season. During that run, he averaged 25.7 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, was on a Finals team and a 67-win team, won an MVP, and led the league in win shares per 48 minutes all three seasons, according to Basketball-Reference.
His career value isn’t even in question, but in case you were wondering he’s seventh all-time in career win shares. He’s also one of just three players with at least 100 playoff appearances to average 25 points and 10 rebounds, joined only by Hakeem Olajuwon and Elgin Baylor, per Basketball-Reference. His 2011 playoff run, during which he averaged 27.7 points and 8.1 rebounds, is considered one of the greatest individual runs to a championship in league history.
A few of Nowitzki’s former teammates also made the list, including Vince Carter (69), Jason Kidd (35), and Steve Nash (30). Alex English (62) and Dennis Rodman (64), each of whom played one season in Dallas, appeared on the list as well.