DALLAS (USA) – Dirk Nowitzki’s legendary 21-year NBA career took center stage on Wednesday night when the German sports icon had his No. 41 jersey retired by the Dallas Mavericks.
As the first European to be named as the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2007, Nowitzki paved the way for Greece’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (2019, 2020) and Serbia’s Nikola Jokic (2021) to achieve the feat as well. The global superstar was also named 2011 NBA Finals MVP after leading the Mavs to the first and only title in franchise history.
He is one of only four international players to be named NBA Finals MVP, the only international player in the top 10 of the NBA’s all-time leading scorers, and the only international player to have scored more than 30,000 points in his career.
His exploits in the game’s toughest and most celebrated league won Nowitzki fans everywhere, and boosted the popularity of basketball in his homeland like never before.
In fact, almost every national team player of Germany has been quoted as saying that one of his first memories as a child was staying up at night to watch Nowitzki play.
If he was among the biggest and brightest stars in the NBA, Nowitzki was also among the most celebrated national team players, representing Germany at numerous events and doing so in dazzling fashion.
At the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2002 in Indianapolis, Nowitzki’s brilliance helped Germany earn a spot on the podium. He was also the tournament’s leading scorer.
At FIBA EuroBasket 2005 in Serbia and Montenegro, Nowitzki took his game to new heights as Germany reached the Final. Though his national team finished runners-up to Greece, Nowitzki left the court near the end of the title game in Belgrade to a standing ovation. He was again honored as the event’s MVP.
He is the only player to have claimed the MVP award at both championships without capturing the crown.
Nowitzki also led the 2005 tournament in scoring, just as he did at the FIBA EuroBaskets in 2001 and 2007.
The leading scorer in the history of his national team with a total of 3,045 points in his international career, Nowitzki received the ultimate accolade when named Germany’s flag bearer at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. He is the only athlete to have had that honor and to be named Sports Personality of the Year, which he was in 2011.
“Of course it was an amazing ride,” he said. “Twenty-one years in the same organization, the same city that has meant a lot to me. And I’ll never forget some of the memories we made along the way.
“Of course, the ones that are easy to remember are the ones that always pop up. That’s, of course, the championship, the Olympic Games, all the big playoff games and series, 30k of course
“All of those moments come to mind. But there is so much other things that come into this, all of the people that helped you and all the hard work that you put in. I look back with pride and some sort of satisfaction.”
FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis was present at the jersey retirement ceremony to celebrate Nowitzki’s achievement. Zagklis also paid tribute to Nowitzki in a video that was showed during the ceremony.
Nowitzki became a FIBA Central Board member shortly after his retirement in 2019, following his appointment to chair the FIBA Players Commission. He is also the Official Ambassador for FIBA EuroBasket 2022.