Dirk Nowitzki Was One of All-Time Best NBA Playoff Performers Before This Run
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Jordan, 33 Pts., 6 Rebounds, 6 Assists, 2 Steals
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
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
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.