Sure, the Redeem Team dominated the headlines of the Olympic Games. Yes, Yao Ming was able to play in front of his host nation of China, garnering standing ovations aplenty. But there is one story that has been overlooked—the pride that German forward and NBA superstar Dirk Nowitzki has for his country.
It was relatively well-documented in the German press that Nowitzki was nursing injuries throughout the Olympic Games, but forced himself to play through the pain in what very well may have been his last Olympic competition.
Nowitzki was the key player in bringing Los Angeles Clippers’ center Chris Kaman along for the Beijing ride, to help boost what was an incredibly young and inexperienced bunch of kids.
It’s no surprise, though, why Nowitzki is so emotional about these Olympics. After playing at the national level for the past 16 years, and watching the country’s attention grow rapidly more towards basketball, the Dallas Mavericks’ star will be remembered for one thing—positive development of basketball in Germany.
According to Yahoo! Sports interviews in German, it appears that Nowitzki’s role in expansion of his beloved sport means more to him than reaching the NBA Finals just three years ago. Although he has brought such a sweet taste to Germany’s second-most popular sport, there was certainly a defiantly bitter ending to his Olympic career, a 106-57 drubbing at the hands of the gold-medal Americans.
When coach Dirk Bauermann removed Nowitzki from the game towards the end of the third quarter, it was no wonder that both were incredibly emotional. They have worked together to bring a new sport to the forefront of German life—but so far, it doesn’t seem to be working.
That's not to say that Nowitzki’s efforts haven’t been appreciated, but it’s difficult to compete with the traditional popularity of German soccer.
That being said, hopefully Nowitzki can get the recognition that he absolutely deserves. Without the big seven-footer from Wuerzburg, Germany, the squad wouldn’t even have qualified for the Olympic Games—but by taking the helm, Nowitzki made it happen.
Don’t look now—but slowly and surely, the German program is coming up. More than half the Olympic squad was below the age of 22, and the youth movement towards the hardwood continues to gain support.
So to you, Dirk, thanks for bringing one of Europe’s gems the phenomenal sport of basketball.
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