Members of the Mount Rushmore of Dallas sports – Troy Aikman, Dirk Nowitzki, Emmitt Smith and Roger Staubach – were recognized at a fundraising gala Saturday night at the Omni Hotel in downtown Dallas.
The event, named Heroes on the Water, benefited veterans, active duty military and first responders and their families.
Dale Hansen, the sports director at WFAA-TV, Channel 8, was the master of ceremonies and moderator. Here are just a few of the questions Hansen asked the Mount Rushmore members.
HANSEN: Did Dallas make Dirk Nowitzki, or did Dirk Nowitzki make the Mavs, or a little bit of both?
NOWITZKI: I think it’s a little bit of both. I was lucky to come in a system where, I don’t know how you guys’ basketball knowledge is, but Coach Nellie (Don Nelson) was perfect for me. He was a mismatch master, he played different styles, he wanted his big guys to shoot and spread the floor. He was way before his time, and so that perfectly fit my system and my style of play. So I was very fortunate to come into a system that supported me and wanted me to play my way. If I would have gone somewhere else, they probably would have bulked me up. Back then there were still a lot of big guys and lifting a lot of weights at the end of the 90’s, and I don’t know. Maybe I would have never actually played like I did.
HANSEN: What’s so hard about actually retiring?
NOWITZKI: I basically knew (before last season started). I was having foot problems. It was taking the fun away. The whole year (during the 2018-19 season) I already knew this was going to be my last year. Even how much you think about it, you’re still going to be emotional when the time comes. I’ll never forget the last home game was so great still, I’m having goosebumps. Obviously it’s only been eight months now, so it’s still all pretty fresh. I’m trying to obviously find my routine, find my rhythm, enjoy my kids, travel, and then find something that I enjoy for the rest of my life. So far I’m enjoying it, but leaving something that you love is definitely hard. But as we, I’m sure we all do, I’m going to stick around my sport. The sport has given me so much since I was 14, 15 years old. I’ve been traveling around the world meeting so many cool people and relationships.
HANSEN: What would you have done if the NBA didn’t work out for you?
NOWITZKI: My parents had a painting business, believe it or not. Paint houses inside and outside. What if I would have been the world’s tallest painter?
HANSEN: You had Miami (in the 2006 NBA Finals). You should have won that series. You’re up two games (to none), but then Miami came back and won four in a row. Then you come back in 2011 and you won (the NBA title). Now that you’re out of the game, do you think about the win, or do you think even a little bit more about the one that got away?
NOWITZKI: I personally think there is no winning without all the losses. I think over 10 years every time you’re disappointed you ended the season with a loss – or a playoff loss – and it’s super frustrating. But that pushed me, really. It pushed me in the offseason to work harder. In my 20s if I took two weeks off for something, it was long. I was already back in the gym again, working hard and trying to get better.
HANSEN: If you could have had one teammate from any period of time to join your team, who would it have been?
NOWITZKI: I grew up in the 90’s watching basketball and I was fortunate that it was Michael Jordan’s era at the time. That was obviously the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), and I was fortunate that he came back with the (Washington) Wizards and I competed against him. I was part of his last All-Star game in Atlanta (in 2003).
One thing that people don’t always remember is I played with Dennis Rodman for two or three weeks (in 2000). I can always tell my kids about some of the stuff we saw during those two-three weeks.
HANSEN: What were some of your college choices?
NOWITZKI: Let me keep this really short. I didn’t go to college. I was on a recruiting visit to Stanford, Kentucky, and Cal at the time had a new coach. I enjoyed my time there. I had a good time, but after that game that I had in the U.S. — the Hoop Summit (in San Antonio) — I had a good game and everybody said you’re basically in the lottery now. So it was kind of hard to bypass that. Everybody said if you could be a lottery pick you’ve got to go (to the NBA).”