Dirk Nowitzki is a future Hall of Famer and the greatest European basketball player in history. His career was able to take off thanks to his incredible work ethic, which led him to become an NBA legend despite not being drafted.
Dirk Nowitzki became an NBA legend, but he prepared for his NBA exit before his career even began. He was drafted in the year of 1990 and retired at the age of 41.
Dirk Nowitzki accomplished the unimaginable by defeating the Miami Heat’s Big Three in the 2011 NBA Finals. As soon as he is eligible, he will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. However, things did not begin as well as they ended.
Nowitzki went on to enjoy a 20-year NBA career, which was fortunate for him, NBA fans, and his wallet. Even before arriving in the United States, and even after his rookie season, the future MVP was prepared to return to Germany if his NBA career didn’t work out.
Before he even began his NBA career, Dirk Nowitzki was planning to return to Europe.
In 1998, Dirk Nowitzki poses during a photoshoot in Bonn, Germany. | Getty Images/Holger Sauer)
After being selected, the 7-footer had to decide whether to immediately enter the NBA or remain in Europe and play for a few seasons first. According to DMagazine.com, Mavericks head coach Don Nelson phoned Nowitzki immediately after the selection and informed him, “We’re going to Germany.”
That got the ball rolling, as the future 12-time All-NBA player appreciated someone from the organization traveling all the way to his native nation only hours after he was chosen. So Nowitzki decided to pay it forward and flew to Dallas.
The 20-year-old didn’t play significant minutes until late in his first season. Off the court, he struggled with seemingly basic tasks such as paying bills and finding a place to eat. He had to keep working on his English in order to interact with his colleagues more effectively. For a young player in a foreign nation, there was a lot to take in.
According to veteran beat writer Marc Stein, the eventual NBA champion had a difficult first season:
All in all, it was a terrible year. He didn’t say much about it at the time, but he did say years later that he really considered returning to Europe after the first year.
According to DMagazine, Marc Stein on Dirk Nowitzki’s first season in Dallas.
Nowitzki made the decision to at least attempt to make it to the conclusion of his rookie deal.
Early in his career, Nowitzki had the possibility of returning to Europe to complete his career in the back of his mind:
“Once I got here, I said to myself, ‘Now you’ve made your choice.’ At the very least, you should battle through the first contract and see how things go. I thought that if things didn’t work out, I could always go back to Europe after three years.”
If he fails in the NBA, Nowitzki considers returning to Europe.
Finals in the future In his debut season in the NBA, MVP appeared in just 47 games, starting only 24 of them. He averaged 8.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per contest. He had more turnovers than assists on average.
However, everyone could see the physical characteristics right away. Nowitzki was a 7-footer who had accomplished feats that no other 7-footer had. He was dribbling past defenders, pulling up for jump shots, working in the post, and blasting three-pointers in the faces of opponents. It all set the scene for the stretch four, which would go on to become an NBA mainstay.
Nowitzki appeared in all 82 games in his second season, starting all but one. He played almost double the amount of minutes he did in his first season. His scoring increased by more than a factor of two, and he shot 37.9% from beyond the arc on more than twice as many tries.
The beginnings of who he would become began to emerge. In his third season, his points per game, 3-point attempts, and percentage all climbed. In those first three years, Nowitzki had not only completed his rookie deal but also established himself as a franchise player.
After proving to himself that he could play in the league, Nowitzki remained for another 17 years after his rookie contract expired.
Each of the following 12 seasons, the 9th overall selection in the 1998 draft averaged more than 20 points per game. He revolutionized the big man position by hitting 38 percent of his three-point attempts during his career. In five separate seasons, he shot more than 40% from long range.
After more than a decade, Nowitzki finally won a championship in 2011 against an invincible team and added Finals MVP to his résumé.
He had no idea what his first few seasons in the NBA would bring, and he had a backup plan in place if things didn’t go well. But, in the end, Nowitzki proved to himself that he belonged in the NBA and went on to become one of the game’s best players.
Basketball-Reference provided all statistics.
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Dirk Nowitzki is a basketball legend, but he began his career as an 18-year old. He has been playing in the NBA for over 20 years now, and he is still going strong. Reference: how old is dirk nowitzki.
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