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Memories of Dirk: First Impressions and Favorite Dirk Moments as told by the Mavericks Organization

Memories of Dirk: First Impressions and Favorite Dirk Moments as told by the Mavericks Organization


Reminiscing; we all do it.

We often look back at all the good and bad times; the moments and memories that helped shape and mold us in to who we are today.

For Dirk Nowitzki, he has his fair share of both good and bad memories during his 21 years in a Mavericks uniform. Most are fond memories, of course, but there’s definitely some heartbreaking losses that surely still sting to this day.

You can imagine now that the door has finally shut on his career, that there will be a lot of that for Dirk; reminiscing and thinking about the good memories that helped form what is a legendary, Hall of Fame career.

But along with Dirk, what memories and fond moments will be cherished by the people around him forever? I talked to the people of the Mavericks organization and former teammates of Dirk to find out their first impression and favorite memories of #41.

Mark Cuban – Owner, Dallas Mavericks

First memory/impression –

“My first impression of Dirk was as a fan listening to the media saying ‘oh, here comes another white guy from Europe’. The first time I met him, right after I bought the team, me and a bunch of my buddies went out to the old Star Club and we’re drinking and celebrating. Steve (Nash) and Dirk were there and I tried to buy them a beer and they were like ‘Who is this idiot? No, we’re not drinking blah, blah, blah.’ And the next day is when I met the team and they were like ‘Wait a second! Don’t we know you from somewhere?’

Favorite memory –

“Oh, so many. Most of which, I can’t talk about. Let’s just say there’s been a longstanding Mavericks tradition where after the season’s over, we all go to Vegas so there’s been plenty of memories and partial memories from those trips.”

Donnie Nelson – General Manager/President of Basketball Operations, Dallas Mavericks

First memory/impression –

“Man, it was at the Hyatt Regency hotel when I was the assistant coach with Nike and Dirk arrived really late after a hellacious flight. I think he arrived at like eleven o’clock that night and my first thought was ‘Man, this guy really is 7-feet.’ Usually guys, when they get over here, they shrink by four inches.

Favorite memory –

“My best Dirk memory ever is the emotion that he showed after we won the championship in 2011. And my ugliest Dirk memory is when he tried to sing the Queen favorite ‘We Are the Champions’ and completely butchered it.”

Rick Carlisle – Head Coach, Dallas Mavericks

First memory/impression –

“Oh wow. That’s a good question. You know, there were immediate comparisons to Larry Bird. Larry had immediate success in this league but he was a much older player. You know, he had transferred schools, sat out a year between going to a different school. He was 22 or 23 and Dirk was extremely young at 19 or 20 years old. There was a learning curve that was different but as time went on, you could see Dirk starting to get it. Nellie made the position switch and he started to have an even more greater amount of success and as time went on, he just became a monster to deal with. A 7-foot-1 guy that faces up at the elbow and stuff like that, weren’t growing on trees back in those days. Nellie had an awful lot to do with Dirk’s development and his pioneering of the stretch-4 position, he really did. I always felt that the comparisons between Dirk and Bird were understandable but they were quite different players. Larry was the prototypical small forward in the era of tall ball and Dirk was really a power forward in the era where the game got faster and things got a little smaller. And their games were, aside from the great shooting stroke, their games were significantly different but two of the very greatest that ever played.”

Favorite memory –

“Well, it’s gotta be Game 6 in 2011. It really was a defining games on so many levels with the kind of team that we were and the kind of player that he was. He had a really rough first half, I think he was 1-12 from the field. Brian Cardinal stepped in when Dirk had two quick fouls and kept us afloat. We actually had a two point lead at halftime and Cardinal had some words of wisdom for Dirk at halftime. We were able to get Dirk the first shot of the second half, he hit it, and had a brilliant second half to bring home the championship. But, it was an example of a situation where the goal was there but there was going to be an obstacle. It was going to be hard. It was two quick fouls at the end of the first quarter. It was a lousy shooting half but he was able to just erase all that stuff and kick ass in the second half and it was a beautiful, beautiful moment.”

Michael Finley – Dallas Mavericks (1998-2005) & Vice President of Basketball Operations, Dallas Mavericks

First memory/impression –

“He came to the Landry Center where we were practicing at the time and he played one-on-one against Samaki Walker; he totally destroyed Samaki. I was really impressed on how he attacked Samaki and played well. After the one-on-one, he did a workout where he was shooting jumpshots with both his right and left hand which seemed odd at the time but I was like ‘this guy can really play.’

Favorite memory –

“I can’t tell you the stuff off the court but on the court, I forget what year it was (2001) but we beat Utah in the first round of the playoffs. The next round, we played in San Antonio. We lost the series but Dirk had like a 50-point game (42 points and 18 rebounds in Game 5) and at that point I knew that the team and the franchise was in good hands. That this kid was on his way to become something really special and I think I was pretty correct on that estimate.”

Al Whitley – Head Equipment Manager, Dallas Mavericks (2001-2018) & Vice President of Basketball Operations, Texas Legends

First memory/impression –

“When I met him, he was a very shy, young 20-year-old, I think. I met him through Steve Nash before I was actually working for the Mavericks. And I think Dirk was scared of me. He thought I was crazy; ‘Crazy Canadian’ is what he called me. Just super quiet, broken English. I wouldn’t say intimidated but just learning the lay of the land. And you could tell that he was obviously foreign and how he went about his way.”

Favorite memory –

“There’s been a ton, obviously. I have to say, he was one of my groomsmen at my wedding, which I thought was very special and an honor for me. But, probably my most memorable, favorite moment was when we won a championship. I know what this man has gone through to get to that level, to finally hold that trophy. The endless hours of work ethic, blood, sweat, and tears; everything that went into it and what it meant to him. To see him walk off the court before we even got the trophy says it all. It was a special moment but an overwhelming moment that he’d finally realized his dream and I’ll never forget that for the rest of my life.”

Shawn Marion – Dallas Mavericks (2009-2014)

First memory/impression –

“Oh, a big, stiff, stick of sticks (?). No, but typically I thought, ‘he’s just a 7-footer that can shoot that ball.’ I used to try to be physical with him because he was always skinny and tall. I was skinny too but I always tried to get physical, regardless of my size. We used to have some great match ups especially when I was in Phoenix. We actually had some great match ups when I was with Dallas because we would practice against each other. But for the most part, him being as deadly as he was from the elbow, mid-range, three point shot for his shot; unheard of. He definitely critiqued that fade away and he made it hard for me to block his shot.”

Favorite memory –

“You know, one of the famous things with Dirk, he’d be like ‘I build bricks in this building.’ Kind of a sarcastic, inside joke but I love it. I’d be like ‘I built bricks in Phoenix!’ I didn’t really build any here. Maybe, I might have one or two of them but Dirk built this bad boy.”

Vince Carter – Dallas Mavericks (2011-2014)

First memory/impression –

“I remember Dirk as a rookie when we came in. My first impression was just his unbelievable work ethic, the way he worked on his game and got better quickly. He’s not the fastest or the quickest guy, doesn’t jump in the top 85th percentile of the NBA, and yet he’s been one of the most dominant players in the game because he outsmarts everyone. His ability to get to his spots and shoot the ball is second to none.”

Favorite memory –

“Hard to say because he’s such a team guy. Regardless of his 30,000-plus points, he’s a team guy. The one thing I always enjoyed is that he doesn’t say much until he needs to say something. But when he wants or demands the ball, you get him the ball. I really enjoyed that about him, because he valued his teammates around him and always understood how important they were to his success. But when it was go time, we all understood he needed the ball.”

Devin Harris – Dallas Mavericks (2004-2008, 2014-Present)

First memory/impression –

“I remember just being in awe a little bit of just how he shot the ball. It was very unorthodox just watching him work with Holger. The things that they were doing was literally the opposite of what we were taught. It was very weird seeing him doing these box jumps or the way he was teaching him how to shoot and the rotation or lack thereof on his ball. We were always taught to rotate the ball as much as you can — Holger was like ‘no, you don’t want any rotation.’ I’m like ‘how do you even shoot like that?’ But, it was just amazing and how hard he worked and very rarely do you see a guy put a franchise on his shoulders but you he cared about those type of things and every night he wanted to give you the best he had.”

Favorite memory –

“I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite moment, but I remember going to a wedding and I was wearing a suit that I just bought. Dirk kind of looked at me and was like ‘what are you wearing?’ Took a red glass of wine and tossed it all over my suit.”

I then asked, “Well, did you get him back?” Devin responded, “Let’s just say if this is indeed his last game on April 10, I told him he better not wear a suit.”

J.J. Barea – Dallas Mavericks (2007-2011, 2015-Present)

First memory/impression –

“When I first got here, I was trying to make the team. He was the star, you know. He was like any other person; funny, joking around, love to be around his teammates. Example wise, just watching him work. It was crazy. This guy never got tired. I was like, if I do 25% of what he does, I’ll be fine. But, it was special.”

Favorite memory –

“Me and Dirk have an amazing relationship. He’s treated me the same way the first day I got here when I was trying to make the team. 13 years later, amazing relationship off the court. On the court, it was amazing playing along side him. You know, carrying him in the playoffs in 2011. Nah, but it’s been special. I wouldn’t change it for the world. Playing with an All-Star like that and being able to learn from him. Having some tough losses with him and the best moments with him. It’s been special.”

Dwight Powell – Dallas Mavericks (2015-Present)

First memory/impression –

“Being a young player in my rookie year, I’m kind of confused of what’s going on. Just trying to figure it out and trying to spend as much time as I can in the gym. Trying to pick up plays and be a pro. And him being in there before me; before practice and after practice. Truly being in there, not just to be there but working on his game. Luckily for me as a rookie, that taught me that’s how you’re supposed to do it.”

Favorite memory –

“For public consumption. Hmm, that’s a tough one. I don’t know to be honest. I’ve known him for five years now so that’s a lot of memories and a lot of good times. But, I think the best times are just in the locker room after practices and on the plane just kind of talking about whatever, life, and just picking up little nuggets whenever I can and him sharing his experiences and talking about his glory days; stuff like that.”

Maxi Kleber – Dallas Mavericks (2018-Present)

First memory/impression –

“Probably watching NBA highlights on a Saturday morning. My first memory that I really know was when we took a picture. I was in Würzburg when he celebrated his championship, I was in the crowd. When I got to Dallas, I never really talked or played with him on the national team so when I got here, I was pretty excited. I remember the first time I saw him was in the practice facility here and I was like, a little nervous to meet him since he’s the guy I’ve always looked up to. It was surreal. I really couldn’t believe that I was working out with this guy. That day, he took me to lunch so I will not forget that. I was super excited.”

Favorite memory –

“For sure the championship when he celebrated in Würzburg. I had never seen anything like that in my hometown city, or in his hometown city, too. It was insane. So many people celebrating his championship. Like, I had goosebumps. I was in the crowd and they made this day just for him. He was singing ‘We Are The Champions’ on the balcony. It was fun.”

Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks (2019-Present)

Favorite memory –

“The whole year. Just being with him is special, you know. Like I said, I wish he was younger so I could play more years with him but this year was really special.”

Gregg Popovich – Head Coach, San Antonio Spurs

First memory/impression –

“Wow. That’s when Nellie brought him in with that trade long ago. Nellie would keep telling me about this kid. He arrived and you could see right off the bat what type of skill he had. He was still kind of frail. He didn’t have the strength yet and needed some time to figure out the size of the players and the physicality of the league and that sort of thing. But, it didn’t take him very long and you could tell from the very beginning that he was just going to grow.”

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks (1998-2019)

First memory/impression of becoming a Maverick –

“Well, being drafted and flying in here, I didn’t know what to expect. I only knew Dallas from the TV show that my parents watched. It was a little different when I got here. You know, there was actually real buildings. So, I didn’t really know what to expect and I learned to love it, obviously. People were great to me at the beginning and welcomed me with open arms and wanted me to succeed. It’s been a pleasure and it’s my new home.”

Favorite memory as a Maverick –

“There’s too many to mention but this last year has been incredible. Obviously 2011, of course. You don’t forget your first All-Star game when you walk into the locker room and you’re accepted by them. All of a sudden, you’re in the locker room with Kobe, KG, Tim Duncan, Shaq; that was an incredible experience back then. Losing the Finals, I’ll never forget. That whole week in Miami, that disaster changing hotels. I mean, there’s a lot of memories. Losing my MVP season, that will always stick with me in ’07, winning almost 70 games and falling short. I think all these disappointments are with me as well as the good times. Made lots of memories as you’d think in 21 years. Made lots of friendships that I’ll always cherish for the rest of my life.”

For me? My first memory of Dirk was in the early 2000’s, specifically 2001-2002. This was the first season of the Mavericks rebrand as Dirk was starting to let his hair grow for really the first time in the league, as we would soon witness a plethora of hair styles over the years. He was really starting to make a name for himself alongside Michael Finley and Steve Nash, who I’ll always remember as the first “Big 3”.

I remember them losing in the 2nd round of the playoffs to Chris Webber and the Sacramento Kings, in the year where they should have won it all, yet that Robert Horry prayer saved the Shaq & Kobe led Lakers to eventually give them their second straight championship. But that loss in the playoffs was the moment when I realized, and I’m sure they realized as a team that we had something special brewing.

I remember being in awe of his skill set for his size. It just didn’t make sense to me. Big men were supposed to only play on the block but Dirk was the enigma. Watching guys like Shaq and Tim Duncan dominate on the inside and then there’s Dirk; draining shots from the parking lot and hitting his signature one-legged fadeaway, leaving defenders with their hands up looking at the bench like “how am I supposed to guard that?” Exactly. You aren’t.

My favorite memory, like most, is 2011. That was it. That was the do or die season for Dirk. The doubt was starting to creep in the minds of the talking heads on if Dirk could lead a team to the promise land. But, he did. He did it.

Really sit down and think about it. During that playoff run, Dirk and the Mavericks beat the Brandon Roy led Trail Blazers, swept Kobe and the Lakers, defeated the three-headed monster of KD-Russ-Harden and the Thunder, all before taking down the heavily favored Heatles in their debut season.

That’s nuts.

The moment that will forever remain cemented in my soul is when the clock hit 0:00 and the Mavericks were officially NBA Champions. As the players stormed the floor at the American Airlines Arena to hug and celebrate with each other, someone was missing.

Where was Dirk? You’ll see the big fella creeping back behind the scorers table to the locker room. He was emotional and needed to collect his thoughts, and rightfully so.

13 seasons of battling, trying to get Dallas to the mountain top and before that moment, failing to do so and hearing all the criticism in the world that he couldn’t lead this team and that he was soft. Well, he shattered those criticisms. An overwhelming moment, indeed.

That night, the Mavericks held a watch party for fans for Game 6 at the AAC as Dallas played in Miami. I was there that night. As the clock winded down and it was certain that the Mavs would be champions, tears began to fall. But this was a cry I had never experienced before. Because before you cry, you feel those tears start to form. This was different. Tears just began to fall as I hugged and jumped up and down with a friend as I thought “What is this emotion I’m feeling?!”

It was relief. It was excitement. It was winning.

Dirk didn’t need superstars to come join him in Dallas and vice versa, he didn’t need to leave Dallas to seek a ring to lift his legacy. He left millions of dollars on the table multiple times to remain a Maverick and create cap space to better the team.

He stayed right here. The only place he’s called home.

You can argue that the 2011 championship holds more weight than other’s do as it was an honest, team accomplishment. Not saying that other championships aren’t, but being that Dirk was the only star on the team, surrounded by a group of misfit veterans? That championship stands alone in the new era of super teams.

Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.

The legend of Dirk Nowitzki will forever live on in Dallas and the basketball world forever.


Managing Editior for Dallas Sports Fanatic | Lead Editor covering the Dallas Mavericks | UNT Alum | Twitter: @TheMulf

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