Reestablishing His Name: How Dirk Nowitzki Is Putting Himself Back on the Map

Nigel BroadnaxCorrespondent IMay 24, 2011

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 23:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts in overtime while taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Four of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Oklahoma City Arena on May 23, 2011 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Due to recent chatter about him, one would think that Dirk Nowitzki has made significant alterations in his play on the court over the last four years.

On paper, he's been pretty much the same player since the 2000-2001 season. Slight ups in downs in his averages, but the foundation and blueprint of his game has basically remained constant.

Yet his reputation has skyrocketed over the last month or so, from where it has been following Maverick meltdowns in the 2006 Finals and in the 2007 first round. He has served as the signature player of the 2011 Playoffs, leading the Mavs to success that came to many people's surprise.

And his approval rating is reeking all of the benefits.

After Dallas blew a 2-0 series lead against Miami in the Finals one year, then lost to an eighth seeded Golden State as a hefty favorite in round one the next, Nowitzki has taken a steep amount of criticism since then. He has often been labeled as "soft" and a "choker."

He had become a common afterthought when thinking of the elite players in the league.

But a couple of awe-inspiring playoff performances of late has resulted in a renascence of the 13 year veteran's respectability.

Everyone from sportswriters and analysts, to fans in the comments sections and and in conversations among friends have pulled 180's in regards to Dirk. I've heard and read people saying things like "Dirk is impossible to guard" and "Dirk looks like the second coming of Larry Bird."

People are even thinking that he could be one of the top 10 players of all time. This thought may be taking it a step too far, but it just shows you how far his public opinion has come the last few years.

Some of these things were more than unheard of in recent memory.

His play in the postseason, which has fueled all of this enhanced recognition, has been transcendent.

Through 14 games he has averaged 28.6 points (his most since 2006 and second highest in his career) and 7.5 rebounds, while shooting over 51 percent from both the field and beyond the arch. He has also taken 131 free throws (ranking second in his career to his Finals run in 2006) making 92 percent of those shots.

But the beefy stats aren't all that has stirred up this buzz around him. You can just see this developed edge he has on the court.

He just seems to have a mental toughness that he did not posses in the past. And this more-ruthless demeanor has catapulted his talents to their full potential. He has more confidence in his moves, he's more aggressive and his basketball IQ is higher.

Dirk's recent playoff disappointments have made him a stronger competitor, and he has so far been rewarded for it.

Thanks to his resurgence, along with America's front-running mentality, the German native is back in the spotlight of aristocracy.

And rightfully so.