The Dallas Mavericks aren’t wasting any more time. They will honor the GOAT of their franchise on Wednesday when they hang Dirk Nowitzki’s No. 41 jersey in the rafters of the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
Nowitzki will be the fourth player to have his jersey retired by the Mavs, joining Brad Davis (10), Rolando Blackman (22), and Derek Harper (12). The Mavs also retired No. 24 to honor Kobe Bryant after his tragic death in 2020. Dirk is joining some great company but is by far the crown jewel of this Mavericks organization.
“Dirk is everything to the Mavs,” Cuban said in a press release about Wednesday’s ceremony. “First 41.21.1., and now lifting his jersey to the rafters. It is a special day for the Mavs and Mavs fans around the world.”
This is one time I’d have to agree with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Dirk really was, and still is everything to that organization and its fans. I know we’re all prisoners of the moment now and get flustered anytime Luka Dončić drops a dime or hits a step-back three. But the only way for Dončić to ever truly become numero uno all-time for the Mavs will be to bring a second NBA championship to Dallas. Luka will break many, if not all, of Dirk’s records for the Mavs, but until he leads them to a title, he’ll always trail behind Dirk in that regard.
Dallas had some good years in the 1980s, making the postseason and even an appearance in the Western Conference Finals in ‘88. But the ‘90s were dry for the Mavericks, as they missed the postseason every year of that decade. Dirk was drafted ninth overall in ‘98 (lockout-shortened season) and by ‘03 had the Mavs in the conference finals. And that was no small feat. We’re talking about the Shaq-Kobe/Duncan-Robinson era of the NBA western conference.
Of course, Nowitzki eventually led the Mavs to two NBA Finals appearances against the Miami Heat, winning it all in 2011. But Dirk was the first 7-footer that I can remember regularly playing the game like a guard. Shooting from outside consistently, taking players off the dribble, developing a pretty nice handle over the years, and doing things we hadn’t seen many big men do before 2000. You have to remember that we’re talking about the era where any player 6’10” or taller was expected to play down low on the block. And if that player couldn’t make a living down low, they were quickly considered a marginal player.
Nowitzki made it ok to be a skilled big man even though his style was initially rejected. A league MVP award, then a championship for a franchise that had no history of winning. Nowitzki earned this honor taking place on Wednesday in Dallas. The last stop along Dirk’s NBA journey is the Hall of Fame. That announcement is just a matter of time and eligibility away.