Dirk Nowitzki Most Marketable NBA Player, but He Doesn't Want to Be a Brand

Kevin ShayContributor IIIJuly 15, 2011

Dirk with one of his Espy trophies.
Dirk with one of his Espy trophies.Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Fresh off his stunning performance at the ESPYs and even more stunning NBA championship run, Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki is now the most marketable player in the NBA.

Yes, more marketable than LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony  and all those other self-promoters who double as NBA stars.

That's according to the latest Nielsen/E-Poll. Dirk landed a score of 132, well ahead of second-place Kobe's 83 and third-place Steve Nash's 68. LeBron and Wade plummeted from 131 and 117 in the last poll to 26 and 34, respectively.

To further point out how bad it has gotten in the marketing department for LeBron, who loudly proclaims he wants to be a worldwide brand to anyone who will listen, Pau Gasol has a higher score than the King. Ouch....

Dirk could take his NBA title, and the fact that he is the first hoopster to win the ESPY for top male athlete since Jordan in 1993, and cash in like Jordan did. And like Kobe, Magic Johnson and most others who were named MVP of the NBA Finals.

But Dirk wants no part of that side of the business. He doesn’t even have an agent, as he negotiates his own contracts. How rare is that? I bet you can count the number of celebrity athletes who don't have agents on one hand.

In a recent letter to Bloomberg, Dirk wrote, "I always wanted to be a basketball player. Nothing more. Nothing less. I have never really considered myself to be a ‘brand.’ Sure there are a few things that I wouldn’t mind endorsing and maybe some day it will work out. For now, I’m happy with where I am."

It's this attitude that makes him popular with fans who vote for ESPYs and the Nielson/E-Poll, but not so popular with media analysts who can't understand such humility and cynically suspect it is an act. But I don't think it is an act with Dirk.

Last summer, before the NBA season began, my 11-year-old son sent letters, photos and SASEs to eight or so athletes he liked, asking for autographs. Dirk and former Dallas Cowboy Preston Pearson were the only ones to return the photos with their signatures.

Meanwhile, even someone with as much popularity as former Cowboy Troy Aikman is hawking rental furniture in commercials. I always wince when I see Troy doing those idiotic commercials with Hulk Hogan.

You don't need the money that bad, Troy. Get a clue from the NBA's most marketable player who doesn't want to be.