CHARLOTTE — For Dirk Nowitzki, the tears likely will come later. Maybe it’ll be appropriate if they come in buckets – because that’s all he did for over two decades in the NBA is make buckets.
No, Nowitzki hasn’t announced whether or not he’ll retire at the end of this season. He’s keeping his options open, which is his right.
For now, the greatest player in the history of the Dallas Mavericks is living in the moment, soaking in the good times that kept on rolling the past three days during the All-Star Weekend in Charlotte.
On Friday, Nowitzki was the honorary coach for the World Team in the Rising Stars game. On Saturday, he got off to a rough start, but finished tied for sixth place in the 3-Point Contest.
Nevertheless, Nowitzki saved his best memorable moment for last.
With the world watching, and with Nowitzki realizing this would be his final time to play on a hardwood floor filled with the NBA’s greatest players, he promptly went out and showed the sellout crowd that he’s still got it. Playing like he was shooting balls out of a cannon at the local fair with a big old teddy bear at stake, Nowitzki drained one 3-pointer after another. . . and after another.
It all happened within a span of four mind-boggling, goose bump wearing minutes as Nowitzki went 3-for-3 from 3-point range and finished the game with nine of the most precious points that not he or anyone else who witnessed his show-stopping performance will ever forget.
“It was an amazing weekend,” Nowitzki said. “(The NBA) kept me busy, but I enjoyed every event I was in, and enjoyed some family time. I had a blast.
“The one last time on this stage, I couldn’t have scripted it better with making some of those threes. That was obviously a big goal of mine – to make a couple. So that was amazing to share that stage with (Miami’s Dwyane) Wade and obviously some of the best players we have in the world, so it was awesome.”
Nowitzki and Wade were special invites to the All-Star game by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. And both players were given a commemorative All-Star game jersey with their name and number on it between the third and fourth quarters.
“Those guys look good to be in the league for so long and still playing at a high level,” Golden State Warriors All-Star forward Kevin Durant said. “D-Wade, I was telling a couple of guys, I feel like he could play a few more years.
“And Dirk to play (21) years in the NBA is just ridiculous. For them to be honored tonight, it was cool to be a part of.”
Indeed, the colossal respect the other All-Stars have for Nowitzki is remarkable.
“I think Dirk has just been special to this league — probably the most decorated international player that we have and we’ll see for a long time,” Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star forward Paul George said. “He’s been special.
“He’s got patent moves with the Dirk one-legger. “
George then expanded on how fond he’s always been of Nowitzki.
“You know, I just remember as a kid him being one of my favorite players just because he was so skilled at his size,” George said. “I would beat teams spreading them out.
“I used to play the spread game back in the day, when people wasn’t on that game yet. On video games, I put Dirk at the (power forward spot), had him spread out. Whupping a lot of people’s butts on that.”
Nowitzki himself has been “whupping a lot of people’s butts” for over two decades since he left Germany to pursue a career in the NBA in 1998. He ultimately worked his way into becoming the No. 7 all-time leading scorer in the history of the NBA, and is unquestionably the greatest international player of all-time.
“I would never say that myself,” said Nowitzki, referring to being the best international player. “There are so many great players that I respect, starting with (Detlef) Schrempf), obviously who is German, (Toni) Kukoc and (Drazen) Petrovic, who obviously his career got cut so short, unfortunately. (Vlade) Divac.
“There’s too many to mention – players that I respected kind of. . .paved the wave the way for me. And if I helped change the game in a way or helped some Europeans down the line, then that’s obviously an honor and that’s great.”
When that time comes calling – the one when he takes that long walk into proprietor Mark Cuban’s office and tells him he’s hanging up his sneakers – Nowitzki knows it won’t be an easy task. It never is, he knows, when he’s touched so many lives and shared the basketball, the locker room, and bus and plane rides with so many teammates.
“When you play for 20, 21 years you play with a lot of teammates,” Nowitzki said. “I’ve been blessed with a lot of great ones that I will remember and stay in touch with for the rest of my life, especially obviously the 2011 championship team.
“I’ll never forget some of these guys, and we text all the time. There’s some great teammates of mine that supported me and helped me make my way and stay in the league that long.”
That support, Nowitzki admits, is exactly what he needed to help him make buckets in the NBA for over two decades.
NOTES: Mavs CEO Cynthia Marshall will be profiled on The Today Show on Channel 5 on Tuesday in the 9 a.m. hour. Craig Melvin interviewed Marshall about a variety of topics. . .Dirk Nowitzki’s wife, Jessica, was spotted throwing up three fingers after he hit one of his three 3-pointers in Sunday’s All-Star game. Nowitzki’s long-time mentor and coach from Germany, Holger Geschwindner, also attended the All-Star game. “I didn’t even look over, I was hyped myself,” Nowitzki said. “Holger was here, Jessica, a couple of other friends that have been on this emotional roller coaster with me for 20 years.” Nowitzki acknowledged that he doesn’t celebrate the way he used to when he first broke into the NBA. “It was a lot more tame (this past weekend) than it used to be 15 years ago,” he said. “We used to be in the clubs. But now it’s just a dinner here and there and enjoying a glass of wine with friends and family.”. .The Mavs will resume practice on Wednesday and play their first post-All-Star game matchup on Friday at home against Denver. From there, the Mavs have a two-game road trip Saturday at Utah and Feb. 25 at the Los Angeles Clippers. . .The Mavs are 26-31 and four games behind the Clippers (32-27) in the loss column for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. . .The Mavs have 25 games remaining – 12 at home and 13 on the road.