Dirk Nowitzki: Living the Dream with the Dallas Mavericks

Wes WardContributor IMarch 10, 2008

On Saturday March 8, 2008, Dirk Nowitzki became the all-time scoring leader for the Dallas Mavericks and reached yet another benchmark in his already storied career.

Coming into the NBA, the German born Nowitzki was overlooked by many, thought to be just another soft European like those few who had come before him.

He got his shot when he was drafted ninth overall in 1998 by the Milwaukee Bucks, who then traded him for Robert Traylor to the Mavericks.  The Bucks are still trying to recover...

The Big German focused his childhood on handball, which his father played professionally in Germany.  It was not until he was 15 years old that Dirk began to focus on basketball and people began taking notice.

In just 14 short years, Nowitzki has single handedly changed the NBA game and the way scouts approach international talent.  The recent influx of star International players came just after the discovery of Dirk in Germany.

The NBA now has more than 85 international players.  Yao Ming, Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, Mehmet Okur, and Andrei Kirilenko are just a few who have burst into the NBA since Dirk's emergence.

The franchise once capable of just 12 wins in the early 90s has resurged as one of the NBA's top teams since Dirk's arrival in Dallas.  Sure, Stave Nash, Michael Finley, and Mark Cuban have all contributed to the historic turnaround, but Dirk Nowitzki has been the glue since day one.

And he continues to carry the Mavericks through both triumphant and turbulent times.

The San Antonio Spurs are the only team to win more games than the Dallas Mavericks since the 1998-1999 season.

In 2006, the Mavericks finally reached the NBA Finals with Dirk as the go-to-guy, and last year the Mavericks achieved a franchise-high 67-win season.  There have been some disappointments along the way, but there is no denying that Dirk has brought life back to Dallas and excitement to the NBA.

Throughout the controversies surrounding the Jason Kidd trade and his MVP campaign last year, Dirk has remained relatively silent and reserved.  Still, he has continued to focus on the one thing at which he’s always excelled: basketball.

Nowitzki reached 16, 644 points in his career on Saturday night, a feat accomplished by very few.  And, he managed to do it with just one team—another rarity.

Dirk has improved in every facet of his game since coming to the NBA.  His defense has been refined, improving upon what once was lacking.

He has developed an interior game to counter most big men in the NBA, still retaining the ability to stretch the defense and create off of the dribble.  He has also managed to elevate his passing game, dishing to his teammates when double-teamed.

Nowitzki is often the first guy in the gym, and the last guy out.  Every summer he travels back to Germany to refine his game with mentor Holger Geschwindner, and continues to lead the German Nations Team.

His work ethic goes above and beyond those around him, making Nowitzki a coach’s dream.  Mark Cuban doesn't seem to complain about Dirk either, so he must be good.

Dirk has also been able to help those less fortunate through his numerous community efforts.  In 2001 he established the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation, dedicated to providing and maintaining health care, education, and the well being of children around the world.

He also somehow manages to lighten spirits in any locker room with his indomitable positive outlook.

Dirk has been blessed with the ability to light up the stat columns as well as peoples' faces.  He’s in the top 10 of every career statistic the Mavericks keep, except for field-goal percentage.

Granted, the Mavericks have not had an abundance of great players (like the Lakers or Celtics), but Dirk has still managed to excel in most every aspect of the game

This season Nowitzki has continued to improve.  In his past 11 games he has averaged 30.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, and he is shooting just over 50 percent.

Dirk himself, though, is never satisfied and knows that a higher level must be reached, especially this year with such a tight race in the West.

Only Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson have scored more points than Dirk Nowitzki in the past 10 seasons.  Dirk has been named to the All-NBA Team for the past three seasons, played in eight All-Star games, and won the MVP award in 2007.

And in case you forgot, Dirk is still only 29 years old with plenty of basketball left in him.

Dirk has evolved from a skinny, seven foot German kid into one of the NBA's elite players, unrelenting in his desire and passion for the game.

Nowitzki will continue to strive for greatness and for the one thing he lacks, an NBA Championship.