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The leader of the defending champs completely reinvented his NBA legacy after his historic 2011 championship run. By defeating the Miami Heat and winning his first NBA title, Nowitzki quieted all of his critics and cemented himself as one of the greatest power forwards of all-time.
His playoff numbers were off the charts, averaging 27.7 points per game, 8.1 rebounds per game and 2.5 assists per game, while putting on a shooting clinic by connecting on 48.5 percent of his shots, 46.0 percent of his three-point attempts and 94.1 percent from the free throw line. Beyond the statistics, Dirk hit an unbelievable amount of clutch and game-winning shots, guiding Dallas to their franchise’s first championship.
That incredible run has not translated into this season, in which the Mavericks are currently slotted as the sixth or seventh seed in the playoffs. Dirk’s scoring output (21.6 points per game) is the third-lowest of his career, and his shooting percentage (.456) is the lowest it has been since his rookie season.
Even though this season has not gone according to plan, Nowitzki still has time to turn things around in the playoffs and enhance his legacy in a big way. If Dirk can rally this veteran squad and lead them to a championship run yet again, he will solidify himself as one of the 25 greatest players to ever play, as well as one of the best playoff performers.
In fact, he could really make a case to go down as one of the two or three greatest power forwards to ever play. With two NBA championships, two Finals MVP awards and a NBA MVP award, Dirk would have a compelling case over the likes of Karl Malone and Charles Barkley, neither of whom ever won a championship. He would also have more titles than Kevin Garnett, and would have more individual awards than Celtic legend Kevin McHale.
Before any of this debate can take place, Dirk does have to win this second championship. If he can do so, then his NBA legacy will be that of an all-time legend.