Anyone who has been around him or attended a Dallas Mavericks home game knows that Dirk Nowitzki is as lovable as a teddy bear — and is easily the most beloved Dallas/Fort Worth pro athlete ever.
A giant of a man at 7 feet tall, Nowitzki can often be seen in various skits on the video screen during Mavericks games at American Airlines Center. From his off-beat singing to the wild wigs he wears, Nowitzki always allows himself to engage in kid-like behavior.
Meanwhile, as humorous as Nowitzki is off the court, he’s just as lethal on the court, where he will go down in NBA history as one of the most dominant players ever. Nowitzki is 1,929 points from passing Wilt Chamberlain (31,419) to become the fifth-leading scorer in NBA history.
The other four legends ahead of Nowitzki are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), Karl Malone (36,928), Kobe Bryant (33,643) and Michael Jordan (32,292).
“I just think we’re seeing one of the truly unusual athletes in sports history, proving that it can be done with great longevity, with a great love and respect for the game and a great commitment to excellence,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “You know, I marvel at his career and everything he does on a day-to-day basis every day.”
Arriving in Dallas from Germany in 1998, Nowitzki has played his entire 18-year career for the Mavericks after being the No. 9 overall pick that year in the NBA Draft.
“It means a lot to me that I was able to do it for one franchise with not knowing what to expect when I first got there a long time ago,” Nowitzki said. “It’s been a great ride.”
A ride Nowitzki is still enjoying after agreeing July 5 to a two-year, $40 million deal with the team.
“People were great to me from the beginning when I was struggling my first year,” Nowitzki said. “They always supported me.
“Then obviously [Mark] Cuban bought the team [on Jan. 4, 2000] and he was loyal to me. So it kind of was my new home. So I’m proud of that and hopefully there’s many more baskets to come.”
Here is a look at DFW’s most beloved athletes:
1. Dirk Nowitzki: Funny, fantastic, steady, respected and a future Hall of Famer. He’s the sixth all-time leading scorer in NBA history. His Celebrity Baseball Heroes weekend is one of the most notable social and charitable events presented by a local athlete.
2. Roger Staubach: He won two Super Bowl titles with the Dallas Cowboys, and his life matched his reputation as a clean-cut, former Heisman Trophy winner out of the Naval Academy. Community giant who is a mover and shaker in the business world.
3. Nolan Ryan: Embodies the true grit image of the state and backs it with a Hall of Fame baseball career. Seven no-hitters aside, his baseball mind drew respect from the fans.
4. Mike Modano: The undisputed face of the Stars franchise, Modano was a fan favorite and a media-friendly, dynamic player. He helped educate the state on hockey and in turn North Texans thanked him with their loyalty. A Stanley Cup title didn’t hurt, because DFW loves a winner.
5. Jason Terry: The Jet has perhaps the most recognizable signature move in the Metroplex, the wingspan run down court. His smile and 3-pointers captivated fans. He helped the Mavericks win an NBA championship. Jet still makes his home in the Dallas area even when playing for other teams.