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.