Dirk Nowitzki may be 35 years old, and his Dallas Mavericks team may be hanging on for dear life as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, but that should not do anything to diminish the characteristically stellar year the veteran is having.
Dirk is scoring 21.6 points per game on nearly 50 percent shooting from the field, 40 percent from three, and better than 90 percent from the free-throw line. He is getting up there in age, but he has not truly started to slow down, at least just yet.
However, a 109-100 home loss last night to their rival San Antonio made Dallas’ last few games of the regular season incredibly important, as team has next to no margin for losing if it wants to return to the postseason after missing it last year. In the strong West, the Mavs are a solid 16 games over .500 (48-32) with just two games remaining, but are only one game above the 9th place Memphis Grizzlies — and play their chief competitors from Phoenix and Memphis in their final two regular season contests.
Some poor bench play and relative lack of youth and athleticism–as compared to the rest of the conference–has hurt the Mavericks in the 2013-14 campaign, but Dirk’s play certainly hasn’t been, which is a main reason why his coach, Rick Carlisle, recently referred to him as “one of the top 12 all time [players in NBA history]” in an ESPN article.
From ESPN’s Marc Stein: “I think there’s a certain criteria where you can say pretty much for certain that he’s one of the top 12 all time,” Carlisle said in an interview that will air Thursday night on the “NBA on ESPN Radio” pregame show.
“And that is, there’s only been 12 guys that have been 10-time All-Stars, [NBA] Finals MVP and league MVP. So I think that firmly puts him in the top 12. And then getting into the top 10 in all-time scoring validates that even more.”
Currently, Dirk is 10th all-time in scoring with 26,733 points, having passed the likes of Jerry West, Reggie Miller, Kevin Garnett, Dominique Wilkins, and Oscar Robertson along the way. This also means that he is second amongst all foreign-born players in scoring, as he is just 213 points behind Hakeem Olajuwon in that regard.
Looking at just points, he is definitely inside Carlisle’s top-12 of all time moniker. However, points are far from the only key component of a player’s career resume.
Yet, Nowitzki’s entire body of work does seem to support his coach’s grouping of him into the league’s legends, even if that’s a hard classification to make while his playing career is still going on.
Many Hall-of-Famers are found to be more appreciated and revered after they end their stints in the league, as people reflect on and truly evaluate a player’s legacy. In all likelihood, Dirk Nowitzki is one of those players, as he has already had an incredible career and undoubtedly has a few good seasons left to go.
By lumping him into the NBA’s top 12 greats, Rick Carlisle was just being speculative and possibly proactive, as his bold statement just might become an accepted face one day.