Dirk Nowitzki Biography
Dirk Werner Nowitzki is a four-time All-NBA first team selection, an 11-time NBA All-Star, and the leading scorer in Dallas Mavericks franchise history. The 7-footer from Germany is regarded among the greatest European-born basketball players. His presence on the Mavericks is a large part of why one of the NBA's most floundering franchises has now become one of its most consistently successful. In the 2010-11 season, Nowitzki led the Mavericks to their first NBA championship in franchise history, earning NBA Finals MVP honors in the process.
Dirk Nowitzki was born on June 19, 1978 in Wurzburg, Germany. His father, Joerg, was an elite team handball player and coach and his mother, Helga, was a member of the German national basketball team.
Nowitzki's older sister Silke also played basketball. As a child, Nowitzki mostly favored playing handball and tennis. It wasn't until the age of 13 when he started to immerse himself into basketball. When Nowitzki was 15 years old he caught the eye of Holger Geschwiner, a member of the 1972 West German Olympic basketball team, who became enamored with his size and natural ability and decided to take him under his wing. Holger took a broad based approach in his tutelage and enrolled Dirk in systematic training in fields such as saxophone, guitar, fencing, and chess in addition to basketball.
At age 16, Nowitzki joined the DJK Wurzburg X-Rays, a second division team in the German Bundesliga. During his stint with the X-Rays he would be selected to squads such as the German Under-22 national team, the European Junior Team and the World Junior Team. Dirk considered enrolling in a college in the to continue his basketball career, but on September 1, 1997 he was drafted into a mandatory stint with the German army.
In March of 1998, Nowitzki traveled with the International Junior Select Team to the Nike Hoop Summit game in to take on the top American high school seniors - a team that included Rashard Lewis and Al Harrington. What was supposed to be an easy American win turned out to be a showcase of Nowitzki's talents for NBA teams. In addition to stunning the American squad with a victory, Nowitzki had 33 points on 6-12 field goals and 19 of 23 free throws, with 14 rebounds and three steals. Because of his ongoing army service Nowitzki couldn't participate in pre-draft camp or attend the NBA draft, though his Nike performance cemented him in the minds of NBA scouts.
During the NBA draft Nowitzki was part of a trade between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks traded Robert Traylor (who they selected with the 6th pick) to for the draft rights to Nowitzki at number nine and Pat Garrity who was the 19th pick. would then go on to trade Garrity and forward Martin Muursepp, Bubba Wells and a first-round pick in 1999 to the Phoenix Suns for Steve Nash.
Despite making the jump straight to the pros without ever gaining any real experience against collegiate talent, Dirk Nowitzki was being hailed a a contender for Rookie of the Year by Mavericks coach Don Nelson. The German press also hailed him as the successor to German-born Detlef Schrempf - a billing highlighted even more when the two squared off in the very first game of the season. Nowitzki faltered under the spotlight and his skills weren't yet NBA ready. In the lockout-shortened season, Nowitzki averaged 8.2 PPG on 40.5% shooting with 3.4 RPG. He didn't receive a single vote for Rookie of the Year.
In the following season Nowitzki began to get more acclimated to American culture and the American style of play. Also, when Mark Cuban purchased the team on January 14, 2000 the culture of Dallas Mavericks basketball (which hadn't made the playoffs since 1990) began to change. Nowitzki thrived, posting 17.5 PPG and 6.5 RPG while amazingly draining 116 3-pointers as a 7-footer. Nowitzki finished second for the Most Improved Player Award. By winning 40 games the Mavericks also posted their highest win total since the 1989-90 season.
In 2000-01 the Mavericks became a force in the Western Conference. With Steve Nash finally owning the starting point guard spot, Nowitzki's game improved even further, averaging 21.8 PPG and 9.2 RPG in becoming the first Maverick in team history to be named to an All-NBA team.
Nowitzki also became the second player in league history to post over 100 3-pointers (151) and 100 blocks (101) in the same season. After winning 53 regular season games the Mavericks took down Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Despite losing in five games to the San Antonio Spurs in the following round, Nowitzki put up 42 points on 14-24 FG shooting, with 18 rebounds and six seals in the Game 5 loss. Mark Cuban would reward Nowitzki for his efforts with a six-year $90 million contract extension.
In 2001-02 Nowitzki made his first All-Star game, and averaged 23.4 PPG. However, he again failed to make it past the Western Conference semifinals when the Mavericks lost to the Sacramento Kings. In 2002-03, Nowitzki again improved on his numbers, scoring 25.1 PPG and setting career highs in assists (3.0) and steals (1.35). The Mavericks improved as well, setting a franchise record with 60 regular season wins and then making it all the way to the Western Conference Finals before being disposed of by the San Antonio Spurs (4-2).
Nowitzki led the team to 50-plus win seasons in the following two years, but again they were met with disappointment in the playoffs, first losing to the Kings in the first round in 2004, and then losing to former teammate Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Semifinals in 2005.
For the 2005-06 year (with Avery Johnson now starting as head coach full time), Nowitzki was the undisputed captain of the Mavericks. Michael Finley was gone, and Steve Nash was now the reigning MVP in Phoenix. Nowitzki led the team in scoring 58 times and rebounding 40 times and averaged a career high 26.6 PPG. The Mavericks only surrendered 93.1 PPG on average - an average lower than during any of Don Nelson's seven seasons. In the playoffs Nowitzki was a force, averaging 27.0 PPG and 11.7 RPG. The Mavericks knocked off the reigning champion Spurs in the Western Conference Semfinals, and got their revenge on Nash and the Suns in the Conference Finals. In the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, Nowitzki was on the verge of one of the great playoff performances when the Mavericks took the first two games and were holding onto a 13-point lead against the Heat with 6:34 left in the 4th quarter. However, when the Mavericks surrendered another 22 points in the fourth and Nowitzki missed a game-tying free-throw with three seconds left. The momentum shifted and the Mavs didn't win another game in the series, falling to the Heat, 4-2.
In the following season the Mavericks appeared to have built on their experience by becoming the most dominant team in the NBA with 67 regular season wins. The Mavs were so dominant that Nowitzki bested former teammate and two-time MVP Steve Nash in the MVP voting to become the first European born MVP in NBA history. In the first round of the playoffs, the Mavericks lost in a stunning upset to the 8th-seeded Warriors, 4-2. In Game 6, Nowitzki had one of the worst playoff games of his career, netting only eight points on 2-13 FG shooting with three turnovers in a 25 point defeat.
Their first round exit was deflating. The Mavericks won 16 fewer games in 2007-08 (their fewest win total in eight years) and were bounced in the first round of the playoffs against the Hornets. However, on March 8, 2008, on a fadeaway jumper, Nowitzki became the Mavericks all-time leading scorer. In the 2008-09 season under new coach Rick Carlisle, Nowitzki was a first-team All-NBA selection for the fourth time. He led the Mavericks to their ninth consecutive 50-win season, but they were easily disposed of by the Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals.
Nowitzki reached the 20,000-point mark during the 2009-10 season, becoming the first European player to achieve the milestone. He his ninth All-Star season by leading the Mavericks to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. However, Dallas was knocked off by San Antonio in the first round, marking the third time in four years they failed to win a playoff series.
Following the season, Nowitzki opted out of his contract, becoming a free agent for the first time in his career. However, just a few days into the free agency period, he agreed to terms on a new contract with Dallas, keeping him with the Mavericks for the next four seasons. Nowitzki's deal also includes a full no-trade clause, making it likely he'll finish his career with the team.
Early in the 2010-11 season, Nowitzki was seen as a possible MVP candidate, as the Mavericks stormed out to a 24-5 start. When Nowitzki suffered a knee injury, the Mavericks slumped, losing seven out of nine games spanning December and January. Nowitzki returned to the lineup on January 15th, but struggled to regain his early season form, averaging just 19.6 PPG on 43.9% shooting in January. Eventually Nowitzki and the Mavericks figured things out, losing just once in the month of February. They finished the season as the third seed in the Western Conference, and proceded to defeat the Trail Blazers, Lakers and Thunder to reach the Finals for the second time in team history.
Once again, the Miami Heat stood between Nowitzki and a championship. Dallas lost Game 1 of the series, but overcame a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter of Game 2, capped off by Nowizki's game-winning layup in the final seconds. Nowitzki had a chance to put Dallas up 2-1 in Game 3, but missed a potential game-tying shot at the buzzer. Despite a 102-degree fever, Nowitzki helped the Mavericks even the series in Game 4, then put them up 3-2 with a 29-point performance in Game 5. Back in Miami for the potential clincher, Nowitzki shot just 9-of-27 in Game 6, but scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to help Dallas clinch its first NBA title. Nowitzki finished the series averaging 26.0 PPG, 9.7 RPG and shot 36.8 percent from three-point range to earn Finals MVP honors.
The following season wasn't as successful, as Nowitzki admitted he didn't do enough to prepare for the Mavericks' title defense during the NBA lockout of 2011. The Mavericks slumped to a 36-30 regular season and were swept out of the playoffs by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round. Nowitzki did make his 11th All-Star appearance and earned third-team All-NBA honors.
Before the 2012-13 season, Nowitzki underwent surgery on his knee, forcing him to miss the first 27 games of the season. He was slow to return to form once he returned to the court, as the Mavericks hovered below .500. Dallas finished the season 41-41, but missed the postseason for the first time in 12 years.
At the FIBA European Championships in 1999, Dirk Nowitzki ascended as the nation's top player when he lead the team in scoring (15.2 PPG), but Germany failed to qualify for the 2000 Olympic Summer Games. In 2001, Nowitzki carried to a fourth place finish in the European Championships, averaging 28.7 PPG, 9.1 RPG and shooting .573 from the field.
In the 2002 World Championships, Nowitzki was selected tournament MVP even though only came home with the bronze. In 2005, he was selected FIBA European Basketball Player of the Year when he took home the silver medal for as the tournament's leading scorer and MVP. In 2006 Nowitzki averaged 23.2 PPG, 9.2 RPG at the World Championships. In 2007, he again led the European Championships in scoring (24.0), though Germany finished fifth.
In 2008, Germany qualified for the Summer Olympics for the first time since 1992. Nowitzki carried the flag for at the Opening Ceremonies in Beijing, but Germany would fail to make it out of its group, finishing 10th overall.