Dirk Nowitzki played for the 38th time in his career in San Antonio. This Wednesday night was his last. All the amazing battles against Gregg Popovich’s team made it suitable for him to finish the NBA road at the former Alamo Dome.
“If I don’t end it home, it’s kinda fitting to end here in San Antonio,” said the German.
The rivalry between the two franchises became legitimate when Nowitzki emerged as one of the leading NBA stars. Before that is was mostly one-sided domination of the Duncan and pals.
Fierce division contests, followed by playoff meetings were something the 7 feet tall shooter won’t forget. And not only that, but the whole process of growing up and finding a way to defeat one of the ruling forces in the NBA at the time.
“This team was always sort of the big brother. They were beating us and then we kind of found a way to get through them in ’06,” Dirk recalls.
According to the 14-time All-Star, that series in which Dallas defeated San Antonio in the Western Conference finals after a huge battle in 7 games, was the best basketball he ever played and participated in.
“To me, probably still one of the best playoff series I’ve been a part of and probably some of the best basketball in that series that I’ve ever played in my life.”
The Spurs also honored their big rival, and the guy who forced them to be even better and probably affected the famous generation in many ways. All the clashes with the Mavs toughened San Antonio, making them the team they were at the prime.
In a video before the game, the Spurs organization showed footage of Dirk’s greatest wins over them. When a rival makes such a tribute, at the home court and the fans give you a standing ovation, you know that there is no greater act of respect, which is why Nowitzki burst into tears.
Something we haven’t seen even in Dallas the night before. He admitted that Spurs’ tribute really hit him hard.
“Not only did they show highlights from my career, but they showed highlights from me beating up on the Spurs, which was even more incredible,” Nowitzki told the reporter during the on-court interview.
“The first 20, 30 seconds, I was kind of holding it, and then it just kind of all came out. A class act,” he added about the video.
But when talking about improving, it was also the other way around. Spurs influenced Dirk to become much better and to develop new strategies and moves in his attack. He mentioned that too, thanking them for making him a better player.
He finished the game with 20 points and 10 boards, showing that he can still shoot despite his age and physical condition, which has been troubling him for a while. Eventually, San Antonio won, but that wasn’t what marked this game.
It was Dirk’s exit from the floor with 46.8 seconds to go. The whole crowd stood up, all the fans in the arena applauded, Gregg Popovich and the players, the reporters, everybody. It was a scene which no doubt made the already rich history of this building even greater. To have a guy like Nowitzki, a champion, an NBA MVP, the innovator in the game retire at your court. That is priceless.
When asked what is he going to do next week when everything calms down, and when he officially enters retirement, the big fella didn’t have anything particular on his mind.
“Get up in the morning, take the kids to school, pick them up, in between a lot of laying around. Just letting go a little bit.”
An era ended. In Dallas, in Texas, the entire NBA. The skinny who was a subject of laughs because of his style of play and long-distance shooting retired. Only he didn’t go in history like that, but as a champion, and the guy who beat all those who were mocking him.
His influence on the game was…well, let’s say immeasurable. And because of that,
THANK YOU DIRK!