Former college and pro basketball superstar Bill Walton couldn’t wait to heap praise on Dirk Nowitzki, who passed the legendary Oscar Robertson during Tuesday night’s 95-83 victory over the Utah Jazz and became the No. 10 all-time leading scorer in NBA history.
Speaking about Nowitzki at the Final Four in Arlington this past weekend, Walton said: “Any time your name goes in the record books in association with Oscar Robertson you know you’ve done something really special. He’s a class act on all levels and he’s just a perfect representative of what it means to be an NBA superstar.”
“He does it every night on the court. His level of durability, creativity, imagination, empathy, you can put Dirk Nowitzki front and center and put him out there and say this is who we are, this is what we stand for and everybody will rally around him because that guy is a class act.”
Nowitzki entered Tuesday with 26,693 points, 17 behind Robertson. He scored his 18th point on the night and 26,711th of his career early in the fourth quarter. He finished with 21 points to push his total to 26,714.
Walton acknowledged that Nowitzki not only benefited handsomely from Mark Cuban buying the Mavs on Jan. 4, 2000, but also entered the NBA during a time when former commissioner David Stern was endeavoring to make the game popular globally.
“We couldn’t be luckier to have witnessed Dirk Nowitzki’s brilliant career,” Walton said.
Robertson, the only player to average a triple-double during an entire NBA season, joined Walton in tipping his cap to Nowitzki.
“Nowitzki is just a great, great player,” Robertson said while in Arlington this past weekend. “I marvel at some of the things he’s been able to do on the basketball court, especially for a 7-footer.”
Nowitzki, who turns 36 on June 19, already has said he hopes to play at least two or possibly three more years. Walton, though, doesn’t see Nowitzki’s skills declining anytime soon.
“He has exceeded our dreams and our hopes, and it’s been a fabulous run,” Walton said. “And I don’t really see it nearing an end.”
50 and done?
There’s a chance — although slight — that a team will win 50 games in the Western Conference and miss the playoffs.
The Mavs are 48-31 with Tuesday’s victory and have three games left. The eighth-seeded Phoenix Suns have 46 victories with five games remaining, and the Memphis Grizzlies have 45 wins with five games left.
Coach Rick Carlisle knows it’s a tough battle trying to qualify for the playoffs in the West, saying: “You’ve just got to find a way to make it.
“It’s hard work in the West. It’s been this way many other years. If you want it easy, go somewhere else.”