MIAMI – There was a time when it wasn’t wise to invite Dallas Mavericks legendary forward Dirk Nowitzki and Miami Heat legendary guard Dwyane Wade to the same party.
Part of that contentious relationship between Nowitzki and Wade occurred after the Heat fought back from a 2-0 deficit to beat he Mavs in six games in the 2006 NBA Finals. And part of it also resulted from prior to Game 5 of the 2011 NBA Finals when LeBron James and Wade were walking through the hallways of American Airlines Center and were coughing and jokingly discussing how they were getting sick.
At the time, Nowitzki actually was coughing due to flu-like symptoms. So, Wade and James were actually mocking Nowitzki, which didn’t sit too well with the Mavs’ franchise player.
Nowitzki obviously took issue with the shenanigans by Wade and James, and the Mavs went on to win that series in six games. But times obviously have changed, and the two basketball icons have decided to let by-gones be by-gones.
“There’s some ups and downs, but I think at the end of the day we’re both now grown men and we’ve been through a lot,” Nowitzki said following Thursday morning’s shootaround at AmericanAirlines Arena. “It’s not easy to be friends or like your competition.
“I wasn’t friends with the (San Antonio) Spurs when we faced them every year in the playoffs. It just comes with competing at the highest level and you’ve sort of got a little hatred for the opponent you play (against). But I think we’ve moved on a long, long time ago and I think the respect over-weighs everything.”
That respect was on full display on Feb. 13 in Dallas when Nowitzki and Wade swapped jerseys immediately after the Heat defeated the Mavs, 112-101. Nowitzki describes it as “a sweet moment” that wasn’t planned.
“I think it kind of just happened,” Nowitzki said. “We kind of went by at half court and then it was kind of like, ‘Hey, let’s do this.’
“That was a big moment for us, too. Our relationship has grown since ’06, and I think the respect is there and I think that was a good moment. Now I see that jersey at home and it reminds me obviously of some good memories and some bad memories.”
During his 21-year career, Nowitzki wasn’t a player who made a point of collecting jerseys from other sports stars. He said he has “a ton” of jersey of soccer players, and jerseys of players from the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers and FC Dallas.
“I don’t have that many jerseys, but honestly usually if people ask me for jerseys I’ll just give them one,” Nowitzki said. “I don’t have a ton of jerseys at home, but obviously Dwayne is one of the big ones. I have a bunch of other non-NBA jerseys at home.”
Now in his 16th season, Wade has already announced that he’s retiring after this year, while Nowitzki said he’ll wait until after this season to make a determination on his basketball future. Thus, when the Mavs play the Heat on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. CDT, it’ll be historic in that this will be the last time the 40-year old Nowitzki and 37-year old Wade will face each other in an NBA game.
However, Nowitzki is not so sure that this should be Wade’s final NBA season.
“He looks like he’s got a couple of years left,” Nowitzki said. “It looks like at the end he can still take games over if you give him the ball. He’s making good decisions with the ball, he’s still athletic enough to get by people, so to me he looks great.
“But it’s obviously his call (on retiring) and whatever he wants to do and whatever he feels like his body can still do. He had a great game there against us in Dallas, he can still drive, he’s got all the float game, he’s shooting it still, so he’s still a tough cover and we got to be ready for him tonight.”