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Cover Story

119 Reasons Why We Love Dallas – No. 99

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photography by Neumann Und Rodtman

Image
photography by Neumann Und Rodtman


Because We’re Such a Demanding Sports Town That We Don’t Fully Appreciate the Fact that We Are All Nowitznesses



During his rookie year, Dirk Nowitzki was generally regarded as yet another overrated tall white stiff picked up by a franchise that had a history of collecting overrated tall white stiffs. (Partial list: Uwe Blab, Bill Wennington, Chris Anstey, Loren Meyer, Cherokee Parks, Eric Montross, Martin Müürsepp, Shawn Bradley.) That first season, he kind of was an overrated tall white stiff—if only because Don Nelson made it impossible for Nowitzki to live up to the expectations that Nelson himself had forced on the fanbase.

Since then, Nowitzki has merely been the best player ever to wear a Dallas Mavericks uniform, and there is a better than good chance he will hold that distinction for quite some time. He owns every relevant team record. He won the NBA MVP award following the 2006-2007 season. He led the team to its first Finals appearance in franchise history in 2006, converting a crucial three-point play to beat the San Antonio Spurs and then scoring a Mavs-playoff-record 50 points against the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals. And the team, following the dark days of the 1990s, has won 50-plus games and made the playoffs nine seasons in a row.

And yet, while NBA scouts and general managers stare hard at every tall European with a sweet outside stroke and try to see the next Dirk Nowitzki, the original is right here, waiting for his adopted hometown fans to properly recognize him as the superstar that he is. Instead, he is constantly defined by what he isn’t.

They want their 7-foot power forward to be Tim Duncan, to give up what he does best (raining in jumpers from all locations and angles, no matter how awkward or borderline accidental it may sometimes appear) in favor of staying near the basket, where he becomes just another tall white stiff. They compare him, unfavorably, to Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James, without once acknowledging that not a one of them has won a title without Shaquille O’Neal. They even, sometimes, wish Nowitzki were more like Pau Gasol, which is so insane that I can’t even make a comparison. In their eyes, he is the root of all failure, but never the cause of this extended, almost unprecedented, run of success. He is, at best, taken for granted.

Those fans—and there are many out there—fail to see the singular player we’ve been gifted with. A model of German efficiency who is boring only because he is so consistently phenomenal. But I see you, big German. I see you.


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