Dirk Nowitzki Was One of All-Time Best NBA Playoff Performers Before This Run

Kevin ShayContributor IIIJune 7, 2011

Dirk Nowitzki Was One of All-Time Best NBA Playoff Performers Before This Run

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    Dirk was an elite playoff performer before this year's postseason run.
    Dirk was an elite playoff performer before this year's postseason run.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Numerous sports commentators look at what Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki has done during this current playoff run and remark how he has suddenly emerged as an elite NBA postseason performer.

    The fact is, Dirk already was among the elite NBA playoff performers before he carried the Mavs into the NBA Finals for only the second time ever.

    Look at his career playoff numbers: In some 120 playoff contests, he has averaged 26 points and 10.4 rebounds a game, while shooting 46.5 percent from the field. The only other 100-plus-game playoff performers I can find who have averaged at least 25 points and 10 boards in the postseason since the 1976 ABA-NBA merger is Olajuwon and Karl Malone. Bird and Kareem were close at 24 and 10. As was Shaq at 24 and 12. Jordan averaged 33 points per game but only six boards.

    A lot of Dirk's shots have been jumpers when he has been double-teamed as the Mavs' primary offensive weapon. He never has had a second star in his prime to take the pressure off him, as Jordan had Pippen, Bird had Parish and McHale, Magic had Kareem and Worthy, Shaq had Kobe and then Wade, Kobe had Shaq and then Gasol, and LeBron now has Wade and Bosh.

    Nash played with Dirk but didn't really become a star until going to Phoenix. Kidd is about as good as you can get for a 38-year-old guard, but Kidd didn't play with Dirk in his prime.

    Dirk's playoff numbers are a step up from regular season in scoring and rebounding, as he averages 23 points and 8.4 boards in his regular season career.

    With Marion and Chandler during this playoff run, he doesn't have to rebound as much as when he had only the likes of Shawn Bradley and Eric Dampier helping him in the early to mid 2000s. Dirk has only averaged about 8 rebounds a game during the 2011 postseason, compared with 13 in 2002 and 12 in 2006. But he is scoring at about the same pace during these playoffs at 28 points a game as he did in 2002 and 2006.

    To see how other NBA stars who are considered elite playoff performers match up with Dirk's career playoff stats, click on. I only include stars who have played in at least 100 playoff games; LeBron and Wade are among present elite postseason performers who have not yet reached that mark. BTW, Dirk has outrebounded those two, while scoring the same as Wade and only two points below James.

Karl Malone, 25 Pts., 11 Boards

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    SALT LAKE CITY - FEBRUARY 13:  Karl Malone gestures as he announces his retirement from playing NBA basketball as his wife Kay (L) listens on February 13, 2005 at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Malone played 19 years in the NBA, 18 with the Uta
    George Frey/Getty Images

    The Mailman never won a ring, even though he once had Shaq, Kobe and Gary Payton on his team. But he is still one of the elite playoff performers in NBA history - only one of three in the modern era to average at least 25 pts and 10 boards in the postseason. Still, Dirk is averaging a point more than Malone.

Olajuwon, 26 Pts., 11 Rebounds

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    HOUSTON - DECEMBER 29:  Former Houston Rockets Hakeem Olajuwon waves to the crowd as he is introduced to the crowd at Toyota Center on December 29, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or u
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Hakeem averaged 26 and 11 in the postseason, slightly better than Dirk's 26 and 10. Like Dirk, Olajuwon stepped up his playoff performance from regular season, when he averaged 22 and 11. He pretty much carried the Rockets to their first ring in 1994, then had Drexler to help in 1995.

Shaq, 24 Pts., 12 Boards

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    BOSTON, MA - MAY 07: Shaquille O'Neal #36 of the Boston Celtics heads for the net against the Miami Heat in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 7, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: U
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Shaq averaged more postseason rebounds than Dirk but still not quite as many points. He got nowhere in the postseason with Orlando, then won rings with Kobe and Wade.

Bird, 24 Pts., 10 Rebounds

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    1985:  Boston Celtis forward Larry Bird shoots during game. Mandatory Credit: Allsport  /Allsport
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Larry Legend was known as a prolific scorer, but Dirk still averages more points in the playoffs than him. He had better teammates on his playoff runs than Dirk, with players like McHale, Parish and Bill Walton.

Kareem, 24 Pts., 10.5 Boards

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 20:  Former NBA player Kareem Abdul Jabbar arrives to the T-Mobile Magenta Carpet at the 2011 NBA All-Star Game on February 20, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
    Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

    Dirk has even averaged more points in the playoffs than the NBA's all-time leading scorer did. He won six rings but always had another star, including Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and James Worthy.

Barkley, 23 Pts., 13 Boards

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    20 Nov 1999: Charles Barkley #4 of the Houston Rockets makes a jump shot during a game against the Seattle SuperSonics at the Key Arena in Seattle, Washington. The Sonics defeated the Rockets 110-107.  Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule Jr.  /Allsport
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Sir Charles was also the main force on most of his teams so he can appreciate what Dirk has to go through. He did play for a few years with Moses Malone and Dr. J, but had to carry Phoenix to only its second Finals appearance ever in 1993. 

Magic, 20 Pts., 8 Boards, 12 Assists

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    ST. LOUIS - MARCH 28:  Magic Johnson attends the Tennessee Volunteers versus the Michigan State Spartans game during the midwest regional final of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Edward Jones Dome on March 28, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Next to MJ, Magic was probably the top NBA playoff performer in the modern era. Still, he had other stars such as Kareem to pass to and Dirk averaged more points and rebounds.

Duncan, 23 Pts., 12 Rebounds

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    MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 29:  Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots the ball while defended by Marc Gasol #33 of the Memphis Grizzlies in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum on April 29, 2011 in Memp
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Duncan has four rings and has played well enough in the postseason to deserve those. But if Dirk played with teammates like David Robinson, Tony Parker and Manu in their primes, he'd have a few rings, too.

Moses Malone, 22 Pts, 14 Rebounds

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    1990:  Center Moses Malone of the Atlanta Hawks controls the basketball during the Hawks versus New York Knicks game. Mandatory Credit: Allsport USA/ALLSPORT
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Moses won a title with Dr. J as a teammate. He averaged more rebounds in the playoffs than Dirk, but not as many points.

Garnett, 20 Pts., 11 Boards

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    BOSTON, MA - MAY 09:  Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics reacts after a foul is called on the Miami Heat in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 9, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER
    Elsa/Getty Images

    With Minnesota, Garnett didn't even win a playoff series until his eighth try, losing in the first round for seven consecutive years. He had to move to Boston and play with a couple of other stars to win a title.

Jordan, 33 Pts., 6 Rebounds, 6 Assists, 2 Steals

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    CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 12: Former player Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls addresses the crowd during a 20th anniversary recognition ceremony of the Bulls 1st NBA Championship in 1991 during half-time of a game bewteen the Bulls and the Utah Jazz at the Un
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    MJ outscored Dirk but didn't do much dirty work on the boards for a player who could leap like he could. He did get more assists and steals, as well as play better defense, than Dirk. He got six rings but played with another Hall-of-Famer named Scottie Pippen.

Kobe, 25 Pts., 5 Rebounds

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    DALLAS, TX - MAY 06:  Guard Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers takes a shot against the Dallas Mavericks in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 6, 2011 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.  N
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    That's right, Dirk averages more points per playoff game than the Lakers' Mr. Clutch. Kobe played with Shaq to get three titles, then couldn't get another until Gasol joined the team.

Pierce, 21 Pts., 7 Boards

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    MIAMI, FL - MAY 11:  Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics drives against Joel Anthony #50 of the Miami Heat during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2011 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on May 11, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Pierce couldn't lead Boston anywhere in the playoffs from 1998 until 2007 when Garnett and Allen arrived. More anecdotal evidence on Dirk's stellar playoff performances in being his team's main cog in trips to the Finals in 2006 and this year.