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It could be the end of an era in Dallas on Tuesday night, as Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki could be playing in his final game at the American Airlines Center. For 21 seasons and over 1,500 games, we’ve seen Nowitzki in a Mavericks uniform and he has impressed time and time again. There have been plenty of outstanding moments in his Hall of Fame-caliber career, but we narrowed it down to just 10:
1) Mavericks trade for Nowitzki and Steve Nash on draft day 1998
The Mavericks didn’t have much success in the 1990’s, never finishing higher than 9th in the Western Conference in that time. However, fortunes began to change on the day of the 1998 NBA Draft. Dallas selected Robert Traylor out of Michigan 6th overall, but traded him to the Milwaukee Bucks for the draft rights to Dirk Nowitzki and Pat Garrity.
They weren’t done yet, packaging Garrity in a trade to Phoenix for point guard Steve Nash. Nowitzki, Nash, and Michael Finley formed their own big three in Dallas; and even though Nash and Finley left in 2004 and 2005 respectively, the team started a run of 12 straight seasons making the playoffs from 2000-12.
2) Game 4, 2001 West Semifinals
After winning three straight games to defeat the Karl Malone and John Stockton-led Utah Jazz in the 2001 playoffs, the Mavericks fell one game away from elimination again, falling behind 3-0 to the San Antonio Spurs.
Nowitzki had been dealing with some lingering effects of food poisoning (he needed two IVs to play in game 3 of the series) and had a tooth knocked out after getting hit by a Terry Porter elbow with 4:52 remaining in game 4. However, he played through all of it, going for 30 points and 9 rebounds to lead the Mavericks to their only win of the series. Even though Dallas lost, Nowitzki began to show why he was considered one of the league’s toughest players.
3) Nowitzki vs. McGrady
It’s always fun to watch two of the best players in the league face off, and that’s what we got in 2004 when Nowitzki and the Mavericks went up against Tracy McGrady, fresh off a scoring title, and the Houston Rockets.
The two combined for 101 points in the Mavericks 113-106 overtime victory; McGrady went off for 48/9/9 on 19/36 shooting, while Nowitzki finished with 53 points and 16 rebounds while going 15/32 from the field. Two astounding displays from two premier players who ended up facing off again in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs that season, a 4-3 Mavericks win.
4) Scoring 50 against Phoenix in 2006 Playoffs
With the Western Conference Finals tied at 2 games apiece, game 5 was a back-and-forth ride for three quarters. After Suns forward Tim Thomas hit a 3-pointer to give Phoenix a 77-70 lead with 3:27 left in the 3rd quarter, Nowitzki went off, scoring 29 points in the final 15 minutes to lead Dallas to a 117-101 win.
He ended up with 50 points, 17/18 from the free throw line, and 12 rebounds; also leading Dallas to a game 6 win, and their first NBA Finals appearance.
5) 2006 NBA Finals
Dallas won the first two games of this series by double-digits, and seemed to be on the way to a 3-0 series lead before Dwyane Wade took over to give Miami a lead (and eventually a win) in game 3, after Nowitzki missed one of two crucial free throws late in the fourth.
Game 4 was a 24-point Miami win, and there is still some controversy in Dallas for the officiating in game 5 when Wade attempted 25 free throws, as many as the entire Mavericks team had. Nowitzki kicked a ball into the stands after that game, resulting in a $5,000 fine. Miami proceeded to win game 6 and the series, leaving a championship-sized hole in Nowitzki’s resume for the time being.
6) 2007 NBA MVP
After losing the MVP award to former teammate Steve Nash the previous two seasons, Nowitzki led the Mavericks to a 67-15 record to clinch it for himself. He shot 50.2% from the field, averaging 24.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game in becoming the first European-born player to win the MVP award.
Although Nowitzki had an incredible year and finished with the best record in the West, the Mavericks lost to 8-seed Golden State 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs, marking the 3rd time in NBA history where an 8-seed defeated a 1-seed in the playoffs.
7) 2010-11 NBA Playoffs
There were so many incredible moments leading up to the Mavericks NBA Finals run, including the sweep of the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, the 48 and 40-point games against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Finals, and the NBA Finals rematch against the Miami Heat.
Nowitzki tore a tendon in his finger in the late stages of a game 1 loss, but kept playing to lead the Mavericks to a 15-point comeback in the fourth quarter of game 2, including the game-winning layup. However, most remember game 4 when Nowitzki had the flu and was mocked in the tunnel prior to the game by Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.
Nowitzki played and hit another clutch layup with 14 seconds left to put the series at two apiece. He also led Dallas to wins in games 5 and 6, and the Mavericks were able to win their first championship in franchise history.
An emotional Nowitzki walked off the court in tears after the series finale, and he became the second European-born player to win Finals MVP after averaging 26 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
8) Becoming the 6th member of the 30,000-point club
Going into the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on March 3rd, 2017, Nowitzki needed 20 points to hit 30,000 for his career. He seemed to be getting the ball on almost every possession, and with just over 10 minutes left in the second quarter, Nowitzki hit one of his trademark fadeaway jumpers and became the 6th player in NBA history to hit that total.
The Mavericks hadn’t been very competitive in the few years before that moment, so Nowitzki hitting 30,000 points was a huge moment for the crowd at the American Airlines Center.
9) Doc Rivers timeout brings a standing ovation
Every now and then, some athletes come along and transcend the game. Nowitzki has been a staple in Dallas for 21 years now, and has earned his share of admirers for both his play and his work in the community. With 10 seconds left in their game against the Los Angeles Clippers, opposing head coach Doc Rivers called a timeout, which led to this emotional moment:
10) Passing Wilt Chamberlain for 6th all-time on scorers list
It may be the last milestone he hits in his career, but Nowitzki hit his first two shots against the New Orleans Pelicans on March 19th to pass Wilt Chamberlain on the all-time scoring list. For awhile, it didn’t seem like it would happen, with injury issues and little playing time slowing Dirk down a bit; but he got the last of the 200 points he needed at the beginning of the season in that game.
Image Source: Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press