Memories of Dirk Nowitzki are certain to be plentiful for the rest of the day and week, but we’ll start you off with thoughts from Phoenix coach Igor Kokoskov, a native of Belgrade who has a unique perspective on his early memories of Dirk.
But not for the obvious reason that they are both from Europe.
“My first time seeing Dirk in a gym was I believe in 2000 or 2001 when I was visiting the Dallas Mavericks,” Kokoskov said after the Suns’ morning workout Tuesday at American Airlines Center. “I was still with the University of Missouri as a college coach. His friendship and relationship with Steve Nash, those guys would stay after practice and play for hours. That’s obviously a mismatch, Steve Nash and Dirk, but they were best friends, best buddies. They would stay in the gym and play.
“Later on, I coached Steve, but I never coached Dirk. Again, a lot of respect for what Dirk did for this league, for the game of basketball, for international basketball, he did a tremendous job.”
Kokoskov knows European basketball about as well as anybody, having coached Luka Doncic in 2016-17 with the Slovenian national team.
He said there is no way to compare the Mavericks’ rookie to the 21-year veteran Nowitzki, who may be playing his final home game in a few hours.
“That’s for you media to do,” Kokoskov said. “For me, it’s tomato, tomahto. They’re completely different players. It’s easier 20 years later. Dirk helped all international players like Luka to make him more comfortable and change the perception of international players.
“Vlade Divac, Toni Kukoc, even Steve Nash, all that these guys had to go through kind of opened the doors and made this whole basketball market which is the NBA easier for international players. And that’s the benefit that Luka had. It was kind of easier and Dirk was one of the reasons why it’s easier for international players to play today, because those guys established and changed perceptions about international players.”
Yet another legacy for the one and only 41.