DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki became the No. 6 all-time leading scorer in NBA history during Monday night’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans at American Airlines Center.

Nowitzki went into the game needing just four points to pass Wilt Chamberlain for the sixth spot on the all-time scoring list. The historic bucket – a 20-footer near the top of the key via a feed from rookie Luka Doncic — came with 8:35 remaining in the first quarter when Nowitzki used a jumper to score the 31,420th point of his illustrious career that moved him by Chamberlain, who finished his career with 31,419 points.

Donnie Nelson, the Mavs’ president of basketball operations and the person who helped discover Nowitzki over in Germany, was almost at a loss for words when trying to describe what the 7-footer has meant to the Mavs.

”You run out of words and accolades,” Nelson said. “He’s just one of those very rare human beings in what he’s meant to the city and to the sport.

“It’s just been a complete honor in every sense of the word to be with him for 21 years and running.”

Coach Rick Carlisle has been coaching Nowitzki in the NBA longer than any other person – since 2008. So he’s seen first-hand what type of impact Nowitzki has had on the Mavs’ franchise.

“It’s been a two-decade-plus love affair with really a symbolic and iconic figure when you look at everything Dirk has done on the floor, off the floor and some of the challenging things he’s worked through,” Carlisle said. “I understand the feeling.

“I played with some great players. I played with (Larry) Bird in Boston for three years when he was the best player on the planet, and I played with Patrick Ewing (in New York) when he was an up-and-coming MVP caliber player. People have a great connection to their superstar athletes, especially the ones they can relate to, and Dirk has allowed us to relate to him in some very unusual and special ways because of the person he is. Look, it’s really hard to put so many things into one or two sentences with him because it has been so long.”

proprietor Mark Cuban put it more succinctly when explaining what Nowitzki has meant to the Mavs and to the city of Dallas.

“Dirk is the franchise,” Cuban said. “Everything we have been for the last two decades is because of him.

“Personally, he is a friend.  I know he is there for me and he knows I’m there for him.”

Mavs assistant general manager Michael Finley, who was one of Nowitzki’s teammates from 1998-2005, recalls the days when the 21-year veteran appeared to be hellbent on becoming one of the NBA’s special players.

“He took what he left the year before and came back with something else in his bag,” Finley said. “He was never satisfied. I think he improved every year in his career until this year.

“That’s what the greats do. You can’t be satisfied. Every year he came back better. Even if it was a little bit, it was something. By him doing it, it ultimately made the team better.”

Throughout his career, Nowitzki made 14 All-Star teams, was the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2007 and he also collected MVP honors of the 2011 Finals when he led the Mavs to their only world title. Along the way he changed the NBA game in becoming the first big man to step out deep on the perimeter and bang in one 3-pointer after another.

“Dirk’s whole thing is he was going to shoot better any anyone else,” Cuban said. “Dirk uses his size, his length and his athleticism to get shots off.”

In taking a step down memory lane, Finley remembers the moment when Nowitzki became the household name that he is today. The Mavs’ executive said it was in 2001 when Dallas trailed the Utah Jazz 0-2 in a best-of-five first-round playoff series, but battled back and won the next three games and the series, winning the clincher in Salt Lake City.

That was Nowitzki’s third season in the NBA. Now in his 21st season, Nowitzki has 31,424 career points after he scored eight points during Monday’s 129-125 overtime loss to the Pelicans.

“That was his first taste of being a superstar as far as the media and as far as on the court, because everything they said in the playoffs they were coming at him and he was able to block it out and still produce,” Finley said. “Then he went in that San Antonio series (in the second round), and I think he had a 40-point game, and I think that was the turning point of him becoming the Dirk that we’ve got.”

And that includes becoming the No. 6 all-time leading scorer in NBA history.

“It’s crazy,” Cuban said. “Never in a million years would I, Dirk or anyone would have thought he would make it past Wilt.
“Just goes to show that with hard work what once was inconceivable becomes achievable.”

Dirk Nowitzki passed Wilt Chamberlain on Monday night against the New Orleans Pelicans and became the No. 6 all-time leading scorer in NBA history. Here are the Top 10 leading scorers in NBA history.

Player Points Scored Games Played Scoring Average
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 38,387 1,560 24.6
Karl Malone 36,928 1,476 25.0
Kobe Bryant 33,643 1,346 25.0
LeBron James* 32,439 1,194 27.2
Michael Jordan 32,292 1,072 30.1
Dirk Nowitzki* 31,424 1,510 20.8
Wilt Chamberlain 31,419 1,045 30.1
Shaquille O’Neal 28,596 1,207 23.7
Moses Malone 27,409 1,329 20.6
Elvin Hayes 27,313 1,303 21.0

*=Active players

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