Yesterday was special. The defeat against Spain not only marked the last game for the German team in the Eurobasket 2015 tournament, but furthermore the (most likely) last game in the career of Dirk Nowitzki as a player for the national team. When the Wuerzburg born Nowitzki was drafted 1998 by the Milwaukee Bucks (traded immediately to Dallas) few people could imagine the kind of career he was heading for. The pinnacle might be the 2011 championship against the newly formed intimidating Miami Heat squad, including LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Though Nowitzki already won the NBA MVP trophy in 2007, the first ever NBA championship for his beloved Dallas Mavericks will be never forgotten.
Only four years after being drafted, he managed to lead the German national team to a bronze medal in the 2002 Basketball world championship (in which he was also voted MVP) and three years later to a silver medal at the EuroBasket 2005. He played his first game for the national team in 1997 by the age of 19 and quickly emerged as the team’s top scorer. Meanwhile in the NBA he progressed as one of the league’s best players, with his feared signature move, the fade away jump-shot, which is by many of his NBA colleagues viewed as indefensible. During his entire 17 year long career, he stayed loyal by the Dallas Mavericks, even to a degree where he would accept a smaller salary to give the management a better opportunity to build a championship team around him.
For multiple later international tournaments he gave his best for the German team, though they should never quite reach that form again. Nowitzki then played his seemingly last game at the EuroBasket 2011, only to come back from retirement in 2015 for a final shot at a title. In front of a Berlin home crowd, the German team gave their all, but fell short in a number of nail biters against the likes of Serbia, Italy and Spain. Even though it obviously came as a tough blow to be eliminated in Group Phase, it seemed like Dirk Nowitzki passed on the ball to a new generation, lead by Atlanta Hawks point guard Dennis Schroeder.
The Berlin crowd acknowledged his achievements with a big and warm farewell applause. The greatest German player ever to lay hands on a basketball, now 37 years old, has a magnificent career behind him and in his foreseeable future only a few seasons left in the NBA. His marks as the all-time top scorer for the German national team (3045 points/ 153 games), as well as the second best scorer in european championships will certainly stay for a while. And on top he always stayed humble and kept his friendly down-to-earth personality.
There’s only one last thing to say: chapeau! Dirk, thank you so much for all these magic moments along the way and good luck for the upcoming NBA season!