Dirk Nowitzki’s legacy in Dallas more than just 30,000 point milestone

The Dallas Mavericks forward joined one of the most exclusive clubs in basketball history, becoming just the sixth NBA player to score 30,000 career points.


If you took Dirk Nowitzki’s word for it at the time, this modern-day reality was once his worst nightmare.

It was early April 2013, nearly two years after his Dallas Mavericks won their one and only title and a few weeks shy of a playoff absence that would spark a league-wide debate about whether he’d want to finish his storied career where it had started.

“Now that I already reached my goal (of winning it all), I really want to finish my career in Dallas,” Nowitzki told me at the time. “But saying all that, I don’t want another year next year with the same as this year, (with) the frustration and playing for the eight or nine seed. I think we all know that this is a very big summer for us.”

That summer and beyond, with three first-round bow-outs still yet to come and the annual affair that was the Mavericks’ free agency disappointment, this would become a familiar reprieve. But when Nowitzki scored his 30,000th point on Tuesday, in a game against the Lakers that could help the Mavericks inch closer toward the eighth spot that he once bemoaned and put him up there with Kareem, Karl, Kobe, Michael and Wilt in this elite scoring club, there was a redeeming value to the moment that few saw coming a few years back.

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Even with this challenging landscape that he had lamented, with Dallas far from dominant and Nowitzki’s current teammates including an out-of-nowhere point guard named ‘Yogi’ and the other Curry (Seth, not Steph), there was still a joy in Nowitzki’s game that has never wavered.

Nowitzki rose up on that right baseline early in the second quarter, muscling the stepback jumper up and over the outstretched reach of the Lakers’ Larry Nance Jr., and the American Airlines Center building that has been his for so long now exploded. Cuban raised his arms in celebration once, then again moments later when Nowitzki added a vintage bit of dramatic flair, and the Mavericks’ owner was dancing like a blissful child. Nowitzki buried a three-pointer from the top – one dribble to the left, re-set the feet and fire away – and found himself engulfed by a mob of teammates at mid-court. That smile that finally came, perhaps as much as the wicked, one-legged stepback and the everyman persona, is the most memorable element of Nowitzki’s legacy.

“It’s amazing,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said via Twitter direct message this week. “Dirk is an icon. He is Dallas basketball. He is global basketball. He is a better person.”

NBA commissioner Adam Silver offered his praise following Nowitzki’s milestone jumper, too.

“Throughout his 19 seasons with the Mavericks, Dirk has been a model player and terrific ambassador for our game. The latest accomplishment further establishes his legacy as one of the NBA’s greatest players.”

When it comes to these latter years, it’s Dirk’s loyalty that Cuban knows has been so rare. At a time when…