Dirk Nowitzki (born June 19, 1978, in Würzburg, Germany) was selected in the first round of the 1998 NBA draft by the Milwaukee Bucks and was immediately traded to Dallas, along with the draft rights to Pat Garrity, in return fo the draft rights to the Mavs' first round pick Robert Traylor.
A native of Würzburg, Nowitzki came from an athletic family; his father was a handball player, his mother was a member of the German women's national basketball team, and his older sister played basketball in the United States at Duquesne University. Nowitzki attended Röntgen Gymnasium (high school), and was sporadically recruited by U.S. colleges as a teenager in Germany, and seriously considered attending Pennsylvania State University, but those plans were dashed when he was drafted into a civil service regiment of the German military, where he served from September 1, 1997 to June 30, 1998. However, he was allowed to continue playing pro basketball over the weekends.
He was first noticed by the NBA world when a team of American pro stars, including Scottie Pippen, Jason Kidd, Gary Payton and Charles Barkley, came to Germany and played an exhibition game against a German national youth team in September 1997. During the game, Nowitzki dunked over Charles Barkley. Barkley saw a future superstar in the gangly German teenager and later admitted to offering to pay him "any amount of money he wanted if he would come to his alma mater, Auburn."
Nowitzki did not truly gain international attention, however, until the March 1998 Nike Hoop Summit in San Antonio, Texas, where he notched 33 points and 14 rebounds to lead a team of international juniors to a surprise victory over a U.S. junior team.
Nowitzki is one of the best shooters in the NBA, capable of shooting a high percentage from both medium range and beyond the three-point line, an exceptional skill for a 7-foot forward. His tall frame makes it difficult for defenders to guard and contest his jump shots. Nowitzki utilizes a fadeaway jumper which is difficult to block, and he is outstanding at the free throw line (over 90% in 2006). Some critics note that, for a man of his size, he should be able to score more from the low post, although in recent years his inside game has improved. Dirk also has perhaps the most effective high post game in the NBA today. He often receives a pass near the top of the key and brings the ball down to the low post to score on a drive. This element of his game has developed mostly in the past year.
Nowitzki was a great complement to former teammate Steve Nash on the pick and roll. Though Nowitzki now has to create his own offense more without the benefit of Nash's pinpoint passes, he was able to adjust to the change fairly easily with a combination of driving and stopping in the lane for jump shots.
Early in his career, Nowitzki had a reputation for lackluster defense; one critic joked that Nowitzki should be referred to as "Irk" because "he had no D[efense]." However, Nowitzki's defense improved under the tutelage of former Dallas coach Avery Johnson. Recently, Nowitzki notched a career high in blocks on January 6, 2006, with 7 against the Denver Nuggets. In comparison to his shooting ability and his improved defense, note that Nowitzki is the only player in NBA history to register at least 150 three-point field goals and 100 blocks in a season (he had 151 three-point field goals and 101 blocks in the 2000-01 season).
Nowitzki is frequently compared to Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird, as both are considered among the best shooters of all-time and both are prolific scorers. Both Bird and Nowitzki are three-point contest champions and excellent free-throw shooters. Both players have also won the Most Valuable Player award, making Bird and Nowitzki the only players in NBA history to win BOTH the MVP and the three-point shootout. However, those who make such comparisons acknowledge that Bird had a more developed all-around game and was a better rebounder, defender, and passer. In particular Bird's assist numbers are much higher than Nowitzki's with Bird reaching upwards of 7 assists per game in several seasons and Nowitzki having a career high average of 3.1 per game in 2004-2005. Also, Bird was an immediate sensation in the league winning the Rookie of the Year honors, while Nowitzki, who entered the league three years younger than Bird, took some time to develop. Nowitzki's scoring pace has now caught up to Bird's, but his rebounding and ball sense still fall somewhat short; Nowitzki has never averaged more than 10 rebounds per game in a season, while Bird, in the first six years of his career, never averaged fewer than 10.
As a side note, the seven-time All-Star chose his number 41 because he wore 14 during his early days; but when he joined the Mavs, the 14 was taken by Robert Pack. Nowitzki decided to switch the digits and wore 41 from then on. He still wears the 14 when playing for the German national team. He achieved a lifetime goal when he represented his native Germany at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
On January 13, 2009, Nowitzki became just the 34th player in NBA history to score 20,000 career points with a 30-point performance against the Los Angeles Lakers. Less than a month later, on January 28, Dirk appeared in his 884th game as a Maverick passing Brad Davis for the most games played by a Mav in franchise history. He completed his run of honors that month by being named to his ninth All-Star game and played in front of his hometown fans as the game was played at Cowboys Stadium on February 14.
Nowitzki's NBA dream came true in the 2010-2011 season as he led the Mavs to the franchise's first ever NBA Championship.
Dirk continued to etch his name in the NBA record books when, on April 14, 2013, he exlipsed the 25,000 point mark in a game against the New Orleans Hornets. He is only the 17th player in NBA history to reach that plateau.
Ending the 2013-2014 season averaging 21.7 points over 80 games, Nowitzki singed a new three-year deal with the Mavericks in the offseason. Taking less money to stay in Dallas, he passed up maximum contract offers from both the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers.
- Became the only player in NBA history to register 150 three-point field goals and 100 blocks in a season (he had 151 three-point field goals and 101 blocks in the 2000-01 season)
- Became the first player in Dallas Mavericks history to be named to an All-NBA team (2000-01), and is the only Maverick to be named to an All-NBA First Team (2004-05 and 2005-06)
- Became the first player in NBA history who did not attend a United States high school or college to be on the All-NBA first team (2004-05)
- Became the third player in NBA history (after Rick Barry and Larry Bird) to average 26-plus points while shooting 90% or better from the line (2005-06)
- Surpassed the 10,000 point plateau in his career on January 18, 2005 against the Washington Wizards.
- Named MVP and was the leading scorer of the 2002 Basketball World Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana, winning the bronze medal with the German national team
- Named MVP and was the leading scorer of the 2005 European Championship, winning the silver medal with the German national team
- Named FIBA European Basketball Player of the Year in 2005.
- Named European Basketball Player of the Year by Italian sports newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006
- Runner-up in the 2005 edition of Germany's Athlete of the Year Award (Sportler des Jahres)
- Nicknamed the "German Sensation"
- He is the tallest NBA player to win the 3-point shootout at 7'0