Ever since Kevin Garnett won the 2008 NBA Finals with the Boston Celtics , Dirk Nowitzki has been the best power forward in the NBA.
I know, people love to talk about how Dirk has no "heart," that he's not a "leader," and how he's "soft." That's just stupid. That's what stupid people say who aren't fans of Dirk's game, but they know the facts don't back them up.
So they turn to the only arrow in their quiver: the fact that Dirk doesn't have a championship ring.
But Dirk wasn't the best power forward in the game then. Sure, he was named MVP, and depending on your definition of "most valuable player," he may or may not have been deserving of the honor.
But from 2003-2007, Tim Duncan was the best power forward in the league. After going to the Celtics, we saw how valuable Kevin Garnett was, we saw how much he could thrive on a good team, and we watched as he turned in a championship season by playing great basketball on both ends of the floor.
Unfortunately, by the time this happened, Garnett had already logged over 1,000 games on those skinny legs of his. After the Celtics won in 2008, he has struggled with injuries since then.
That opened the door for Dirk, and he's held the door open for the past two seasons.
Dirk Nowitzki has continued to refine his offensive game to such an extent that he is one of the most creative scorers in the game today.
LeBron James isn't particularly creative. He's got the brute strength to take the ball to the hole, and he's got a decent enough stroke to hit threes and midrange jumpers, but it's nothing too fancy.
Kobe Bryant has been an expert at refining his game to fit the abilities of his aging body. Kobe still drives to the hoop enough to keep people off guard, but his specialty has become the fade away jumper with a hand in his face.
Dirk Nowitzki can do all of that.
Sure, he doesn't have the raw brute strength of LeBron, but he is surprisingly agile when it comes to sneaking by defenders and getting to the rim. He's a great finisher, and he's almost automatic from the line.
Simply put, Dirk Nowitzki is one of the chosen few that were put on this planet to score the basketball.
When it comes to pure artistry on the offensive end of the court, perhaps only Kevin Durant rivals Dirk in the myriad of ways they can put the ball in the hoop.
Dirk can hit from literally any spot on the floor. His height means that small forwards can't guard him. He's spry enough to get past most 7-foot centers.
Long, lean, physical defenders like Kenyon Martin and David West give Dirk the most trouble. Dirk tuned up Kenyon Martin for 3.4 PPG in last year's playoffs, and West got served with a healthy 26.8 PPG in the series before that.
But there might be other names going through your head as to the best power forward in the league. Chris Bosh , Tim Duncan, Amar'e Stoudemire, Pau Gasol?
Good players, all. Not better than Dirk.
Amar'e can't hold a candle to Dirk when it comes to creating his own shot on offense. Half of Amare's points come from picture perfect feeds from Nash, most of them coming while Amare has had time to get up speed without the ball.
Bosh is more of a force on the glass, but he doesn't seem capable of being the best player on a team that can get into the playoffs. And his range stops at just about 17 feet.
Duncan has the best case against Dirk, but I think it's pretty clear to anyone that watches basketball that Duncan is past his prime.
He's not capable of being that 25 and 11 guy on a consistent basis anymore. He can put together downright brilliant stretches on both ends of the floor, but he's not anyone's vote for MVP.
And I mean that literally. Duncan didn't get a single MVP vote. Dirk got 29.
Pau Gasol probably has the closest argument to Dirk, but Pau isn't even the best player on his own team. While Pau won a ring as the second-best player on the team, he did even less than Dirk as the best player on his team.
I know he's not anyone's idea of a great defender, but he's certainly capable of playing decent defense. I think he's better than Stoudemire on D, simply because he works harder.
He'll never be Duncan or Kevin Garnett in that respect, but he's proving himself to last longer than both of them in terms of effectiveness.
Maybe in another system, another team, another lifetime Dirk could have been a good defender. He does have the length, and he's certainly has the footspeed (on the offensive end) to make it a debate.
He could have been a longer, taller Andrei Kirilenko.
But his circumstances forced him to be a scorer, and that's what he should be. Dirk isn't as aggressive on defense because he needs to stay out of foul trouble.
I know these are sort of excuses for the fact that Dirk isn't a dominating defensive presence, but that's how it is.
From the start of the 2009-10 season until right now, Dirk Nowitzki is the best power forward in the NBA.
He was one of the clutchest players in the league over that time, and he led his team to a total of 105 wins over those two seasons.
Next year, it could be Chris Bosh's time. Or Carlos Boozer. Who knows?
If you're going to blast me in the comments section (and I'm sure you will), please be reasonable, and don't toss out Gerald Wallace.
All I know is that Dirk Nowitzki turned in one of the greatest two-season stretches from the forward position that we've ever seen. It's just a shame neither of those seasons ended better.