He was arguably one of basketball’s greatest power forwards of all time. It was bittersweet, the moment that NBA star Dirk Nowitzki celebrated an extraordinary 21 years with the Dallas Mavericks and then bid them farewell. Nowitzki, aged 40, announced his retirement after an awesome final performance, scoring 30 points in the last home game of his career on April 9, 2019.
The Mavericks played the Phoenix Suns at the American Airline Center, and Nowitzki addressed the crowd after the game. “As you guys might expect, this is my last home game,” he said. Forbes reported that the player wiped tears from his eyes as he spoke.
No other player has stayed with a single team for 21 seasons. Nowitzki’s longevity was celebrated in the form of a personalised abbreviation: “41.21.1,” the numbers denoting, respectively, Nowitzki’s player number, the years he has played, and the single team he played for.
The numbers showed up in lights in honor of the Mavericks’ beloved player, and diehard fans held posters and banners in homage to an amazing, longevous career, not to mention the athlete they will sorely miss.
Nowitzki had been suffering excruciating pain in his foot before the game that marked the end of his glittering basketball career, which could have been part of the reason he decided to step down. His allusions to injury also aroused suspicion among Mavericks fans, who were speculating online about Nowitzki’s retirement announcement long before the player’s last game on April 9.
— NBA (@NBA) April 9, 2019
The American Airline Center’s JumboTron (large-screen video display) showed video compilations highlighting Nowitzki’s greatest achievements. He became the sixth-highest scoring player of all time and earned two prestigious titles: 14-time All-Star, and 12-time All-NBA Team Member. The Mavericks captioned the video: “Watch how Uncle Dirk has touched so many lives during the holidays over the last two decades,” they posted, sharing the video on Twitter.
Nowitzki was visibly emotional, later calling the video “unbelievable,” Forbes reported. But it wasn’t his sporting credentials that hit home. Rather, it was the footage that revealed Nowitzki’s charitable side; until now, he’s been careful to keep it private.
— NBA (@NBA) April 10, 2019
Unbeknown to Nowitzki’s fans, the star player regularly pays visits to in-patients at the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. He always brings gifts, and he never allows cameras.
WFAA interviewed the Dallas Center’s patients and staff. “He had to bend down, almost all the way, just to get through the doorway,” said one grateful patient, 11-year-old Evan Jurgenson, who spent 24 months in the hospital battling cancer. “I did laugh a little,” the cancer survivor continued, “because it’s a really tall door!”
Nowitzki is 7 feet tall.
🎥: @swish41 has not only made an impact on the court, but also in the community. Watch how Uncle Dirk has touched so many lives during the holidays over the last two decades. pic.twitter.com/yXeRIDOjgs
— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) April 10, 2019
“His empathy is amazing,” said Keri Kaiser, the chief experience officer for the hospital who has been privy to “Uncle Dirk’s” numerous visits. Nowitzki has never publicized his visits on social media; it’s strictly no publicity allowed. “It’s unheard of,” Kaiser continued. “Nobody does that.”
“I don’t think the community understands the character of this man.”
“Will you ever forget meeting him?” a WFAA reporter asked 11-year-old Jurgenson. “I don’t think I ever will,” came the honest reply. “He’s just a really, really cool guy.”
That’s the kind of medicine that heals. Nowitzki, you are a legend.