Why Dirk Nowitzki Must Retire with Dallas Mavericks to Preserve Legacy

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistAugust 28, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 15:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks drives on Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a 112-108 Laker overtime win at Staples Center on April 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

It's a good think Dirk Nowitzki got that long-awaited ring in 2011. It might just make him a bit less inclined to pursue titles with another team when his current contract runs out in the summer of 2014.

Nowitzki will be 36 when that summer comes along, but he'll by no means be washed up. According to Dirk, there's still a very real chance he'll keep playing:

@dribblepasshoot: @swish41 Your game looks like it will age really well, how many more yrs you playing?” 2 for sure and then see how I feel

— Dirk Nowitzki (@swish41) August 26, 2012

Non-committal though it may be, the comment is consistent with what you might expect. Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett just re-signed with their respective clubs at age 36, and both remain important contributors.

There's no reason to think Nowitzki wouldn't do the same, and there's no reason to think he wouldn't continue contributing.

Hopefully, it's with the Dallas Mavericks.

Owner Mark Cuban has already made it clear he wouldn't trade Nowitzki. The only real variable going forward is whether the two sides can agree on terms in 2014. Cuban will no doubt be interested in retaining cap flexibility, especially if the organization doesn't first land a star free agent in 2013.

For his part, Nowitzki may very well be willing to take a significant pay cut, perhaps one on par with what Duncan accepted.

One way or the other, it's hard to imagine finances getting in the way of Dirk retiring a Maverick.

The only other question, then, is whether he's more interested in remaining with the Mavs or pursuing another ring—and, of course, just how close those Mavs are to winning another ring of their own. 

If Cuban can make up for his strikes outs (Deron Williams) this summer by luring a top-shelf free agent in 2013, it would be hard for Dirk to justify taking his sweet-shooting talents to a team like the Los Angeles Lakers.

That would make for some good drama, but it would be yet another low point in a league that's become all too accustomed to franchise players leaving the teams that drafted them.

And, for Nowitzki, the pressure to stay in Dallas is even greater. Though drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1998, he's never played a game for anyone but the Mavericks thanks to a quick trade. In the process, he anchored the organization's return to a legitimate postseason contender after nearly a decade of losing.

While guys like Steve Nash and Michael Finley played important parts in that turnaround, Nowitzki was the single greatest difference-maker, and he was rewarded for his continued diligence with a championship. 

The first in franchise history for the Dallas Mavericks.

Over the course of his career, he's averaged nearly 23 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, living up to his comparisons to Larry Bird and leaving his own unique stamp on the game.

Nowitzki's generation certainly had its share of elite power forwards, but he always stood out on account of his outside-inside approach to the position. His ability to shoot from the perimeter while deploying a dizzying array of moves in the post differentiated Dirk and set him apart as one of the game's most unstoppable scorers.

Even in a 2011-12 campaign that was disappointing by Dallas' standards, Nowitzki's individual performance remained impressive, and he averaged an efficient 21.6 points.

That kind of production should remain pretty constant.

It goes without saying that the seven-footer never relied on other-worldly athleticism. He's made his living with size and skill, two things that don't diminish with age.

The Mavericks are in store for another turnaround, and it doesn't look like Nowitzki will have to endure a prolonged rebuilding process. Maybe a resurgent season or two will keep Dirk in a Mavs uniform for a while longer.

Hopefully it's the only uniform he ever puts on.