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Top 50 NBA Players: #21 Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki
Resume: 17.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 31.3 minutes, 47% FG, 41% 3PT, and 86% FT… Team record in games played: 28-25 (13-16 without)

As I’ve said before, it’s really hard not to get caught up in a players past when ranking them in the present. The first and hopefully last time my heart was ever broken by a German was in the 2011 Finals when Dirk Nowitzki went H.A.M. on the Heat, made life tough as a LeBron James fan, and prevented what could’ve been the greatest summer in my life. The background information on this one goes something like this; with Boston Rob finally winning Survivor that May, I proclaimed that if LeBron won his first title in June it would be the greatest summer of my life. Clearly, my priorities were a little off at that point in time. Anyway, Dirk destroyed Miami, LeBron momentarily went from “Chosen One” to “Frozen One” and there was legitimate discussion that the best basketball player in the world was from Eastern Europe against all odds.

April 12, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) shoots against the Denver Nuggets at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

That was two years ago. Times have changed and I can proudly say that I don’t have as much of an obsession with Reality TV competition shows. Order has been restored and there really isn’t much debate that—SPOILER ALERT!—LeBron James is the best basketball player in the world. Last year Dirk missed nearly two months of the season, came back sluggish, grew a beard that made him look like one of his barbarian ancestors, and definitely didn’t look like the best basketball player in the NBA, let alone the 21st best player.

As the season went on Dirk shook off the rust and started to resemble the German basketball-playing maestro we knew was hiding somewhere behind that big beard. After a rough shooting start to his season (43-81-39 shooting splits in the first two months of the season), the dagger three’s, running hook shots, and trademarked one legged fade-away jumpers that had been rimming out began to fall over the last two months (51-91-44 splits… now that’s vintage Dirk). It took some time, but he regained that weird German swagger that became oh-so-terrifyingly familiar in 2011. Sure it was on a smaller scale, but he proved he was still capable of delivering late in games and even knocking down a game winner when needed.

Dirk returns for season sixteen hopefully healthy and likely up for the challenge of getting accustomed to playing with some new teammates (Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, and Samuel Dalembert to name a few). In the always competitive Western Conference it remains to be seen if Dirk and the new cast of characters in Dallas have a chance of being a playoff team. Individually, Dirk has a chance to achieve some major milestones. If he stays reasonably healthy he could climb into the top 15 of the all-time scoring list (and maybe even the top 10 if he goes 2007 Dirk on everyone). Additionally, he’ll be surpassing 40,000 career minutes, 9,500 rebounds (getting to 10,000 during the season would be a stretch), and 3,000 assists. His resume continues to grow and even though he’s not as dangerous as he was in his younger days, history tells me that I shouldn’t overlook Dirk Nowitzki, or else he’ll ruin my summer again.

sonnygiuliano