The current era of basketball, at least from 2009 until now, can be considered a golden age for players at the point guard position. Almost half of the league currently has a former All Star point guard playing significant minutes on its roster. The decade before however should be recognized as the era of the power forward. The league was loaded at the 4 position, and many of those forwards were influential in how the players at that size play on both ends. In the upcoming month we will highlight a different former All Star 4 man on the fourth day of the week in a series titled “Flashing Back Forward.”
14x All Star, 2007 MVP, 2011 Finals MVP
Widely considered (if you discount Hakeem Olajuwon because he went to college in the States) as the greatest foreign bred NBA player of all time, Dirk Nowitzki’s journey to NBA legitimacy is an incredible one. After not looking like he would make it to another contract as a rookie, Nowitzki proceeded to make his mark as the premiere shooting big man in the league’s history. 20 years later it’s still a marvel to see this 7 foot German who already has height advantage launch these unreachable high arching jumpers over defenders. Even as he had seemingly found his footing in the league with an All Star berth in 2002, Dirk would continue to battle perception about his legitimacy throughout his career. Up until his first Finals run many felt his teams weren’t well rounded enough to truly compete. Charles Barkley once compared the Mavericks to the Indianapolis Colts of the era, saying they were a great regular season team but had to prove it in the playoffs. He broke though to the Finals in 2006 to meet a D Wade onslaught. The next year his team had the best record in the league, only to get upset in the first round by the We Believe Golden State Warriors. Dirk had to receive his MVP after being ousted in the playoffs, and it was not a good look.
The stereotype of European players being too soft loomed over Dirk, even if his actual play indicated otherwise (David West putting a hand on his face and him not reacting couldn’t have helped). People can look at his lack of blocks per game and his rebound numbers hovering around 7-8 being negative marks for a 7 footer, but during his prime he was getting to the line around 8 times a game. His pure efficiency as a shooter was remarkable, including a 50/40/90 season in 2007. And redemption as a playoff performer was eventually reached. His 2011 run was an instant classic, taking down the defending champion Lakers, Blazers, and the soon to be Western Conference power Oklahoma City Thunder before upsetting the Big 3 Miami Heat on their home floor. When Dirk cried this tears, you felt the emotion. To be loyal to a franchise and to eventually lead them to a championship over the team that beat you once before is a story that would be tough to make up. Not to mention his iconic one legged fadeaway has been adapted by players across the league. Dirk even moved on from a deceitful woman to marry a black queen that makes him to go plates!!!! We honor the Dirk man in all his victories.