analysis Dallas Ten years ago, the man from Würzburg threw his team from players who were unwanted elsewhere to the NBA title. That enraptured fans worldwide – especially in the awareness of the many previous low blows that have long been forgotten today.
The fact that history is written by winners was a massive problem for Dirk Nowitzki, who has long since become inviolable, until ten years ago. That he threw Germany to European Championship silver and World Cup bronze as well as to the Olympic Games? Worthless. That he almost single-handedly made the Dallas Mavericks a title contender? Irrelevant. Because he had not yet led the team to the NBA title – and he would no longer do that.
It was a fact that Nowitzki’s “title window” was closed. Practically every fan in the city belonged to one of two groups at the time, writes sports reporter Bob Sturm from Dallas in his book “This Year is different – How the Mavs won it all”. “One group made fun of the fact that Dirk’s fate was never to win a title. The other was not bothered by it – but also accepted that it would be so. “
When Nowitzki’s teammate Jason Terry had the championship trophy tattooed on his right biceps as a challenge to the 2010/2011 season, he was generally thought to be crazy. The top favorite for the title are the Miami Heat, where three of the league’s biggest stars have teamed up with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Behind it, the bookmakers see the legendary Los Angeles Lakers, the champions of the two previous years. After that, nothing comes for a long time.
Dallas is considered second class. The twelve best Mavericks players have a combined history of 362 years, 109 seasons – and zero titles. They were considered too old, too slow, too prone to injury. Instead of a second superstar, Nowitzki only has players by his side who have been sorted out elsewhere. Jason Terry is said to have a lack of athletic constancy with an oversized ego for good reasons. The bustling JJ Barea looks like a dwarf with his 1.78 meters under all the two-meter giants on the field. Playmaker Jason Kidd is experienced but also 38 years old. Defense anchor Tyson Chandler is brand new to the team. Nowitzki’s substitute Brian Cardinal is called the “caretaker” because he looks like one among all the musclemen. And then there is Nowitzki himself.
At 31, he is in the prime of his life, but in previous years two scandals had shaken his private life: Shortly before the planned wedding, his fiancée was exposed as a marriage swindler and arrested. And his private trainer, mentor and manager Holger Geschwindner was convicted of tax evasion. At the same time, Nowitzki is more and more criticized in terms of sport – despite impressively constant high performances, which are also reflected in very good individual statistics.
The experts have lost patience: Nowitzki has only led Dallas into the final series once – and in 2006 they lost out to Miami. It was 2: 4 in the end after games. Dallas had already led 2-0; the route for the Masters Parade was already in the newspaper. Then Nowitzki and his team imploded. The following year, things get almost worse: In the regular season, Dallas dominates the entire NBA furiously, only to receive a historical slap in the first round of the playoff. When Nowitzki was awarded the trophy for the best player in the main round at the end of that season, his team was long gone. Again.
That is why the question of character is not only asked louder and louder in those years, but also answered immediately. Nowitzki is too nice, too calm, too soft. Very sympathetic, an excellent thrower and an exemplary sportsman, that is. Someone who can drag any mediocre squad into the quarter or semi-finals of the best league in the world – but the bottom line is: a loser. Add to that a knee injury that cost him nine games.
Against this background, the following triumphal procession unfolds all the more emotional: After a tough first round against Portland comes the quarter-finals against the LA Lakers, which some had already predicted the third title in a row. In brilliant 4-0 games, Nowitzki and the like fillet the fat champions. In the semifinals, the strong offensive Oklahoma City is overrun with 4: 1, again with basketball to kneel down.
Nowitzki does not celebrate. He skips the obligatory interview and disappears into the changing room. He throws the trophy for the best team in the western half of the league into a laundry basket. In the final there is a duel against the east champion Miami Heat. The greed for revenge for 2006 is great, the fear of another sporting trauma almost even greater. On paper, the opponent is clearly superior. Miami has three superstars and a bunch of water carriers.
Dallas has a team of players who stage each other and who make up for their weaknesses as a team.
Over and over again the Mavericks fight their way back after backlogs, but the first and also the third game are lost. But the Mavericks are not giving up. Led by a completely exhausted and, for his circumstances, sometimes not very accurate Nowitzki. After a tendon rupture, he has to wear an unfamiliar splint on his left middle finger, and in the meantime there is also a 39 degree fever and chills. The fact that the gockeligen stars of the opponents make fun of it brings Nowitzki the sympathy of the last undecided.
When the final siren sounded on June 12, 2011 and the series was won 4-2 games, people cheered not only in Germany, but also in the USA and around the world with Dirk Werner Nowitzki. He is so overwhelmed by his emotions that he flees the field and surrenders to his emotions in the locker room. He cries tears of joy, relief and redemption: He has finally won the pot, without bending over or changing his style of play or leadership. The reward after 41,362 exhausting minutes of play in the NBA, hundreds of thousands of hours of training, and millions of throws. He just needed some time for himself, says Nowitzki, typically laconic, and: “It’s an indescribable feeling to belong to the best team in the world.”
The rest is cheers. In the confetti rain with the master’s cup and the trophy for the best player in the final series in his arms, at a pompous parade in Dallas and later at an open-air party in Würzburg, with an entry in the city’s Golden Book and the most crooked “We are the Champions”, that the world has ever heard Everyone swears to one another that they always knew it would come this way. And there is never talk of a loser named Dirk Nowitzki again.
In 2019 Dirk Nowitzki ended his career after 21 seasons with the Dallas Mavericks. The 2011 championship remained the only one. It was not because of the money: All in all, Nowitzki had around 194 million dollars (about 160 million euros) less than he could have earned; the money should be spent on better players.
Here is the photo gallery: This is Dirk Nowitzki