|Birth Day:||June 19, 1978|
|Birth Place:||Wurzburg, Germany|
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After being called a freak because of being so tall, he gave up handball and tennis to focus on basketball.
In Dallas, Nowitzki joined a franchise which had last made the playoffs in 1990. Shooting guard Michael Finley captained the squad, supported by 7-foot-6-inch (2.29 m) center Shawn Bradley (once a number two draft pick) and team scoring leader Cedric Ceballos, an ex-Laker forward. The start of the season was delayed by the 1998–99 NBA lockout, which put the entire season in jeopardy. In limbo, Nowitzki returned to DJK Würzburg and played thirteen games before both sides worked out a late compromise deal that resulted in a shortened NBA schedule of only 50 games. When the season finally started, Nowitzki struggled. Played as a power forward by coach Don Nelson, the 20-year-old felt overpowered by the more athletic NBA forwards, was intimidated by the expectations as a number nine pick, and played bad defense; hecklers taunted him as "Irk Nowitzki", omitting the "D" which stands for "defense" in basketball slang. He only averaged 8.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in 20.4 minutes of playing time. Looking back, Nowitzki said: "I was so frustrated I even contemplated going back to Germany. ... [the jump from Second Bundesliga to the NBA] was like jumping out of an airplane hoping the parachute would somehow open." The Mavericks only won 19 of their 50 games and missed the playoffs.
Nowitzki dated Sybille Gerer, a female basketball player from his local club DJK Würzburg. The relationship started in 1992 and lasted for 10 years before it ended in 2002; Nowitzki said, "At the end, we found out we developed in separate ways. ... It did not work anymore, but we are still good friends." He added: "I surely want to start a family and have kids, but I cannot imagine it happening before I become 30."
Nowitzki began playing for the German national basketball team in 1997. In his debut tournament, the EuroBasket 1999, the 21-year-old rookie emerged as the main German scorer, but Germany finished seventh and failed to qualify for the 2000 Olympic Games. In the EuroBasket 2001, Nowitzki was top scorer with 28.7 points per game, and narrowly lost the MVP vote to Serbian player Peja Stojaković. Germany reached the semi-finals and were close to beating host nation Turkey, but Hedo Türkoğlu hit a three-point buzzer beater to tie it, and the Turks eventually won in overtime. Germany then lost, 99–90, against Spain, and did not win a medal. However, with averages of 28.7 points and 9.1 rebounds, Nowitzki led the tournament in both statistics, and was voted to the All-Star team. Back home, the German basketball team attracted up to 3.7 million television viewers, a German basketball record at the time.
Abroad, Nowitzki's progress was noticed. A year later, the teenager participated in the Nike "Hoop Heroes Tour", where he played against NBA stars like Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen. In a 30-minute show match, Nowitzki outplayed Barkley and even dunked on him, causing the latter to exclaim: "The boy is a genius. If he wants to enter the NBA, he can call me." On March 29, 1998, Nowitzki was chosen to play in the Nike Hoop Summit, one of the premier talent watches in U.S. men's basketball. In a match between the U.S. talents and the international talents, Nowitzki scored 33 points on 6-of-12 shooting, 14 rebounds and 3 steals for the internationals and outplayed future US NBA players Rashard Lewis and Al Harrington. He impressed with a combination of quickness, ball handling, and shooting range, and from that moment a multitude of European and NBA clubs wanted to recruit him.
Projected to be seventh pick in the 1998 NBA draft, Nowitzki passed up many college offers and went directly into the NBA as a prep-to-pro player. The Milwaukee Bucks selected Nowitzki with the ninth pick in the draft and traded him to the Dallas Mavericks in a multi-team deal; future star point guard Steve Nash came to Dallas in the same trade. Nowitzki and Nash quickly became close friends. Nowitzki became only the fourth German player in NBA history, following pivots Uwe Blab and Christian Welp and All-Star swingman Detlef Schrempf, who was a 35-year-old veteran of the Seattle SuperSonics when his young compatriot arrived. Nowitzki finished his DJK career as the only Würzburg player to have ever made the NBA.
On January 4, 2000, team owner Ross Perot, Jr. sold the Mavericks to Internet billionaire Mark Cuban for $280 million. Cuban quickly invested into the Mavericks and restructured the franchise, attending every game at the sidelines, buying the team a $46 million Boeing 757 to travel in, and increasing franchise revenues to over $100 million. Nowitzki lauded Cuban, stating that he "created the perfect environment... we only have to go out and win." As a result of Nelson's tutelage, Cuban's improvements and his own progress, Nowitzki significantly improved in his second season. Nowitzki averaged 17.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in 35.8 minutes. He was voted runner-up in the NBA Most Improved Player Award behind Jalen Rose, and made it into the NBA All-Star Sophomore squad. The 7-foot-0-inch (2.13 m) Nowitzki also was chosen for the Three-Point Contest, becoming the tallest player ever to participate. While he improved on an individual level, the Mavericks missed the playoffs after a mediocre 40–42 season.
Before the 2002–03 NBA season, Don Nelson and Mark Cuban put more emphasis on defense, specializing in a zone anchored by prolific shotblockers Raef LaFrentz and Shawn Bradley. The Mavericks won their first eleven games, and Finley, Nash and Nowitzki were voted "Western Conference Players of the Month" in November 2002. In that season, Nowitzki lifted his averages again, now scoring 25.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. He led the Mavericks to a franchise-high 60–22 record, which earned them the third seed: as a result, the Mavericks had to play sixth seed Portland Trail Blazers in the 2003 NBA Playoffs. Now playing in a best-of-seven series instead of the former best-of-five, the Mavericks quickly won the first three games, but then completely lost their rhythm and the next three. In Game 7, Nowitzki hit a clutch three to make it 100–94 with 1:21 left and the Mavericks won 107–95. "This was the most important basket of my career", he later said, "I was not prepared to go on vacation that early." In the next round, the Mavericks met the Kings again, and the series went seven games. Nowitzki delivered a clutch performance in Game 7; he scored 30 points, grabbed 19 rebounds, and played strong defense, leading the Mavericks to a series-deciding 112–99 win. In the Western Conference Finals, the Mavericks met the Spurs again. In Game 3, Nowitzki went up for a rebound and Spurs guard Manu Ginóbili collided with his knee, forcing him out of the series. Without their top scorer, the Mavericks ultimately lost in six games.
Nowitzki earned his first medal when he led Germany to a bronze medal in the 2002 FIBA World Championship. In the quarter-finals against the Pau Gasol-led Spain, Spain was up 52–46 after three-quarters, but then Nowitzki scored 10 points in the last quarter and led Germany to a 70–62 win. In the semi-finals, his team played against the Argentinian team led by Manu Ginóbili, but despite leading, 74–69, four minutes from the end and despite Argentina losing Ginobili to a foot injury, the South Americans won, 86–80. However, the Germans won 117–94 against New Zealand in the consolation finals and won bronze, and Nowitzki, as the tournament's top scorer, (24.0 points per game), was elected the tournament MVP. Back in Germany, over four million television viewers followed the games, an all-time record in German basketball history.
Before the 2004–05 NBA season, the Mavericks were re-tooled again. Center Erick Dampier was acquired from the Golden State Warriors in an eight-player trade. Also, Nowitzki's close friend and fellow international teammate Steve Nash left Dallas and returned to the Phoenix Suns as a free agent, going on to win two Most Valuable Player awards with the Suns. During the season, long-time head coach Don Nelson resigned, and his assistant Avery Johnson took on head coaching duties. In the midst of these changes, Nowitzki stepped up his game and averaged 26.1 points a game (a career high) and 9.7 rebounds; and his 1.5 blocks and 3.1 assists were also career-high numbers. On December 2, 2004, Nowitzki scored 53 points in an overtime win against the Houston Rockets, a career best. Nowitzki was voted to the All-NBA First Team for the first time. He also placed third in the league's MVP voting, behind Nash and Shaquille O'Neal.
Nowitzki's career has been chronicled in books. Dirk Nowitzki: German Wunderkind, written by German sports journalists Dino Reisner and Holger Sauer, was published in 2004 by CoPress Munich. The 160-page hardcover book follows Nowitzki's beginnings in his native Würzburg, documents his entry into and ascent within the NBA, and ends at the beginning of the 2004–05 NBA season.
Nowitzki paced Dallas to a 60-win season. The team finished with the third-best record in the league behind the defending champion San Antonio Spurs and the defending Eastern Conference champion Detroit Pistons. As in the 2004–05 season, he finished third in the league's MVP voting, this time behind Nash and LeBron James. He was again elected to the first team All-NBA squad. Nowitzki averaged 27.0 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 2.9 assists in the playoffs. In the opening round, the Mavericks swept the Memphis Grizzlies, 4–0, with Nowitzki making a clutch three-pointer in the closing seconds of Game 3 which tied the game and forced overtime. In the Western Conference Semi-finals, the Mavericks played against the San Antonio Spurs again. After splitting the first six games, the Mavericks took a 20-point lead in Game 7 before Spur Manu Ginóbili broke a tie at 101 by hitting a 3 with 30 seconds left. On the next play, Nowitzki completed a three-point play, which tied the game at 104. In the end, the Mavericks won, 119–111, and Nowitzki ended the game with 37 points and 15 rebounds. Nowitzki commented: "I don't know how the ball went in. Manu hit my hand. It was a lucky bounce." The Mavericks advanced to the Western Conference Finals, where they again met the Suns. Nowitzki scored 50 points to lead the Mavericks to a victory in the crucial Game 5 with the series tied at 2; the Mavericks won the series in six games and faced the Miami Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals. A content Nowitzki commented: "We've been a good road team all season long, we believed in each other. We went through some ups and downs this season, but the playoffs are all about showing heart and playing together." Of Nowitzki's performance, ESPN columnist Bill Simmons wrote, "Dirk is playing at a higher level than any forward since [Larry] Bird."
In the 2006 FIBA World Championship, Nowitzki led the German team to an eighth place and commented: "It's tough luck. But overall, finishing eighth in the world is not bad."
In the 2006–07 season, Nowitzki shot a career-best 50.2% from the field, recorded averages of 24.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 3.4 assists, and led the Mavericks to a franchise-high 67 wins and the first Western Conference seed in the 2007 NBA Playoffs. He averaged 50% from the field, 40% for three-pointers, and 90% from the free throw line, becoming (at the time) only the fifth player in NBA history to join the 50–40–90 club. Nowitzki was touted as the overwhelming favorite for the Most Valuable Player award and was expected to lead the Mavericks to an easy win against the eighth-seed Golden State Warriors, despite the Warriors having won all three regular-season meetings against Dallas. However, the Mavericks ended up losing to the Warriors in six games, marking the first time a No. 8 seed had beaten the No. 1 seed in a best-of-seven series in NBA history. In the clinching Game 6, Nowitzki shot just 2–13 from the field for only eight points. Defended by Stephen Jackson, Nowitzki averaged nearly five points less than his regular-season average in that series and shot 38.3% from the field as compared to 50.2% during the regular season. He described that loss as a low point in his career: "This series, I couldn't put my stamp on it the way I wanted to. That's why I'm very disappointed." In spite of this historic playoffs loss, Nowitzki was named the NBA's regular-season Most Valuable Player and beat his friend and back-to-back NBA MVP Nash with more than 100 votes. He also became the first European player in NBA history to receive the honor.
The 2007–08 campaign saw another first-round playoff exit for Nowitzki and the Mavericks. Despite a mid-season trade that brought veteran NBA All-Star Jason Kidd to Dallas, the Mavericks finished seventh in a highly competitive Western Conference. Nowitzki averaged 23.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, and a career-high 3.5 assists for the season. In the playoffs, they faced rising star Chris Paul's New Orleans Hornets, and were eliminated in five games. The playoff loss led to the firing of Avery Johnson as head coach and the eventual hiring of Rick Carlisle. The few positive highlights that season for Nowitzki were his first career triple-double against the Milwaukee Bucks on February 6, 2008, with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and a career-high 12 assists, and on March 8, 2008 (34 points against the New Jersey Nets), when he surpassed Rolando Blackman with his 16,644th point to become the Mavericks' all-time career points leader.
In the EuroBasket 2007, in which the top three teams automatically qualified for the 2008 Olympics, Nowitzki led Germany to a fifth place. He was the leading scorer with 24.0 points per game. The fifth place meant that Germany fell short of direct qualification, but was allowed to participate in the 2008 Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Nowitzki led Germany into a decisive match against Puerto Rico for the last remaining slot. In that crucial match, he scored a game-high 32 points and was vital for the 96–82 win which sent the German basketball team to their first Olympics since the 1992 Summer Olympics. Nowitzki was chosen to be the flag bearer for the German Olympic Team at the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Olympics. Nowitzki led the German team to a tenth-place finish, and averaged 17.0 points and 8.4 rebounds for the tournament.
In 2009, Nowitzki skipped the EuroBasket 2009. In July 2010, he said that he would skip the 2010 FIBA World Championship. In summer 2011, Nowitzki played with Germany in the EuroBasket 2011, where the team reached ninth place. In 2015, Nowitzki captained Germany at the EuroBasket. They won only one game, and were eliminated in the group stage, on home soil. In January 2016, Nowitzki officially announced his retirement from Germany's national team. In his career with Germany's senior men's national team, he averaged 19.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game.
The Mavericks finished the 2009–10 NBA season as the second seed for the 2010 NBA Playoffs. Notable additions to the squad were multiple All-Stars Shawn Marion and Caron Butler, with the latter coming in the second half of the season. On January 13, 2010, Nowitzki became the 34th player in NBA history—and the first European—to hit the 20,000-point milestone, while ending the regular season with averages of 25 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1 block. He was selected to the 2010 All-Star Game, his ninth appearance. The Mavericks faced off against San Antonio once more in the first round of the playoffs, but for the third time in four seasons, they failed to progress to the next round. Nowitzki became a free agent after the season, but signed a four-year, $80 million deal to remain in Dallas.
In 2010, Nowitzki met and began dating Jessica Olsson, sister of twin Swedish footballers Martin Olsson and Marcus Olsson. The couple got married on July 20, 2012, at Nowitzki's home in Dallas. They have a daughter, born in July 2013 and two sons, born in March 2015 and November 2016. Though Nowitzki has considered acquiring U.S. citizenship, he remains a German national.
In the 2011 NBA Finals, Dallas once again faced the Miami Heat, which had acquired All-Stars LeBron James and Chris Bosh before the season began. During a Game 1 loss in Miami, Nowitzki tore a tendon in his left middle finger; however, MRIs were negative, and Nowitzki vowed that the injury would not be a factor. In Game 2, he led a Dallas rally from an 88–73 fourth-quarter deficit, making a driving left-handed layup over Bosh to tie the series at 1. Miami took a 2–1 series lead after Nowitzki missed a potential game-tying shot at the end of Game 3. Despite carrying a 101 °F (38 °C) fever in Game 4, he hit the winning basket to tie the series yet again at 2, evoking comparisons to Michael Jordan's "Flu Game" against Utah in the 1997 NBA Finals. Dallas went on to win the next two games, with Nowitzki scoring 10 fourth-quarter points in the series-clinching game in Miami. The championship was the first in the history of the franchise. Nowitzki was named NBA Finals Most Valuable Player.
As Dallas celebrated their title, the NBA was in a lockout that ended on December 8, 2011. The defending champions lost core players, such as DeShawn Stevenson, J. J. Barea, Peja Stojaković, and Tyson Chandler, while adding Lamar Odom, Delonte West, and veteran all-star Vince Carter in free agency. The Mavericks played only two preseason games, which led to a slow start for Nowitzki. Nowitzki made his 11th straight All-Star game appearance in Orlando. Nowitzki led his team in scoring 45 times during the season. Nowitzki's streak of 11 seasons with 1,500 points came to an end after scoring 1,342 in the shortened NBA season. Dallas clinched the seventh spot in the West, and were matched against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 NBA Playoffs. The Thunder swept the Mavericks in four games.
Nowitzki was named the Euroscar European Basketball Player of the Year by the Italian sports newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport for five years running from 2002 to 2006 and again in 2011. He was also named the Mister Europa European Player of the Year by the Italian sports magazine Superbasket in 2005, and the FIBA Europe Men's Player of the Year twice in 2005 and 2011.
In November 2011, the Würzburg local newspaper Main-Post published a 216-page book written by its sports journalists Jürgen Höpfl and Fabian Frühwirth: Einfach Er – Dirk Nowitzki – Aus Würzburg an die Weltspitze, (Just Him – Dirk Nowitzki – From Würzburg to the Top of the World). Both Höpfl and Frühwirth accompanied Nowitzki throughout his career, collecting interviews and photos used in the book. It looks back on the 2011 NBA Finals but also has a strong focus on Nowitzki's relation to his hometown Würzburg and his career progression which began there. The book features insights from former coaches, family members, and friends.
Before the season, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry left the Mavericks in free agency. Nowitzki underwent knee surgery in October 2012 and missed the first 27 games of the season. He returned on December 23, 2012, in a game against San Antonio. In January 2013, Nowitzki and some of his teammates made a pact not to shave their beards until the team reached .500. They were often called "The Beard Bros." On April 14, 2013, after a fadeaway jumper in a game against the New Orleans Hornets, Nowitzki became the 17th player in NBA history to score 25,000 points. The Mavs went on to win the game and climbed back to .500 with a 40–40 record, and Nowitzki shaved his beard. However the Mavericks missed the playoffs for the first time since Nowitzki's second season, ending their 12-year playoff streak.
On January 29, 2014, Nowitzki scored his 26,000th point in a 115–117 loss to the Houston Rockets. In 35 minutes of play, he recorded 38 points, 17 rebounds, and 3 assists. On March 12, 2014, in a 108–101 victory over the Utah Jazz, Nowitzki finished the game with 31 points and passed John Havlicek on the NBA scoring list with 26,426 points. On April 8, 2014, Nowitzki scored his 26,712th point, passing Oscar Robertson to move to the 10th position on the all-time scoring list. Nowitzki led the Mavericks back to the playoffs where they faced their in-state rival San Antonio Spurs in the first round. Dallas lost the series in seven games, and the Spurs went on to win the NBA championship.
On July 15, 2014, Nowitzki re-signed with the Mavericks to a reported three-year, $25 million contract. He was also reunited with former championship teammate Tyson Chandler, who was traded to Dallas after a three-year stint with New York. However, longtime teammate Shawn Marion signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers before the season.
On November 11, 2014, Nowitzki scored 23 points to surpass Hakeem Olajuwon as the highest-scoring player born outside the United States, as the Mavericks came from 24 points down to defeat Sacramento, 106–98. Nowitzki hit a jumper from just inside the three-point line early in the fourth quarter to pass Olajuwon at No. 9, and he finished the night at 26,953 career points. Six days later, Nowitzki became the fourth player in NBA history to eclipse 27,000 career points with the same franchise, joining Michael Jordan, Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant. On December 26 against the Los Angeles Lakers, Nowitzki passed Elvin Hayes for eighth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. He went on to pass Moses Malone for seventh place on the NBA's all-time scoring list on January 5, 2015 in a 96–88 overtime win over the Brooklyn Nets. He recorded his 10,000th career rebound on March 24 against the San Antonio Spurs, and scored his 28,000th career point on April 1 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In 2014, the film documentary Nowitzki. The Perfect Shot was released, which retells Nowitzki's career and life.
On November 11, 2015, Nowitzki scored a season-high 31 points in a 118–108 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. He also grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds and passed former teammate Shawn Marion for 15th on the all-time career rebounding list. On December 23, Nowitzki moved past Shaquille O'Neal into sixth place on the NBA's career scoring list, then made the go-ahead basket with 19.2 seconds left in overtime to help the Mavericks defeat the Brooklyn Nets, 119–118. On February 21, he scored 18 points against the Philadelphia 76ers, becoming the sixth player in NBA history to reach 29,000 career points. On March 20, he set a new season high with 40 points in a 132–120 overtime win over the Portland Trail Blazers. His 20th career 40-point game was his first since January 2014, and the first by a 37-year-old since Karl Malone in 2000–01.
On July 27, 2016, Nowitzki re-signed with the Mavericks. Nowitzki missed several games early in the season with Achilles tendon problems. On March 7, 2017, in a 122–111 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, Nowitzki became the sixth player in NBA history to score 30,000 regular-season points. He also became the first international player to reach the milestone and one of only three to score all 30,000-plus with one team—the others being Karl Malone (Utah) and Kobe Bryant (Lakers). The Mavericks finished the season with a 33–49 record and missed the NBA Playoffs.
On July 6, 2017, Nowitzki re-signed with the Mavericks on a two-year, $10 million contract (with a team option on the second year). On February 5, 2018, in a 104–101 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, Nowitzki became the sixth player in NBA history to reach 50,000 career minutes. On February 28, 2018, in a 111–110 overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Nowitzki reached 31,000 career points. On March 17, 2018, in a 114–106 loss to the Brooklyn Nets, Nowitzki played in his 1,463rd game, moving past Kevin Garnett into fifth place in the NBA career list. He had season-ending ankle surgery on April 5 after appearing in 77 of the first 78 games. The Mavericks finished the season with a 24–58 record and missed the NBA Playoffs.
On July 23, 2018, Nowitzki re-signed with the Mavericks for the 2018–19 season. With his season debut on December 13, 2018, he set the NBA record for the most seasons played with the same team (21), breaking a tie with Kobe Bryant, who spent 20 seasons with the Lakers. He also became the fifth player in NBA history to play 21 seasons, tying an NBA record. Nowitzki was named to his 14th All-Star game as a special team roster addition. On March 18, 2019, Nowitzki became the sixth-highest scoring player of all time, surpassing Wilt Chamberlain's 31,419 points in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. In his team's final home game of the season, a 120–109 victory over the Phoenix Suns on April 9, Nowitzki scored 30 points, and announced his retirement in an emotional ceremony during which Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Shawn Kemp, Scottie Pippen, and Detlef Schrempf appeared on the court to give laudatory speeches for Nowitzki. One day later, he played his final NBA game, recording a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds in a 105–94 loss to the Spurs.
Thomas Pletzinger published in 2019 the 502-page biography The Great Nowitzki, which was regarded as one of the best sports-biographies to have ever been published in German.
Currently, Dirk Nowitzki is 44 years, 11 months and 18 days old. Dirk Nowitzki will celebrate 45th birthday on a Monday 19th of June 2023.
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