Dallas Mavericks

Dirk Nowitzki: 5 moments we’ll always remember, including the infamous flu game

We love our sports heroes because they fill us with joy and hometown pride.

Even if they come from far away, including Germany, once they become ours the bond runs deep. Few sports stars in Dallas-Fort Worth have garnered a deeper and more deserved bond with local fans than the Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki.

He led the franchise to its first NBA Finals and later brought the team its first championship. For 21 seasons he has been an All-Star on the floor and a respected neighbor in the North Texas community. Along the way, of course, he has given us moments we’ll never forget while putting together one of the greatest careers in league history.

His career is winding down with his final game at American Airlines Center Tuesday night against the Phoenix Suns. The Mavericks held plenty of tributes for Nowitzki before, during and after the game.

His historic career will most likely end Wednesday night in San Antonio, but the real goodbye happened Tuesday night in Dallas during the Mavericks’ 120-109 victory.

Here’s a look at the five greatest moments in Nowitzki’s career:

5. 2007 NBA MVP

There is no greater personal achievement for an NBA player than to be named the leagues MVP. Nowitzki’s 2006-07 season earned him the honor after he averaged 24.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 3.4 assist a game while shooting 50.2 percent from the field. The Mavs won a franchise record 67 games.

4. Breaking through

The Mavs tried for 25 seasons to reach the NBA Finals and finally broke through in 2006 behind Nowitzki, who averaged 27 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 23 games. After struggling in Game 4 with just 11 points, he scored 50 in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Suns and added 24 more in in the Game 6 clincher in Phoenix.

3. 30,000 points

He became the seventh player in NBA history to reach the 30,000th point mark and he did it in style on March 7, 2017. Against the Lakers at American Airlines Center, Nowitzki made 8 of 10 shots to start the game and reached the milestone in the second quarter. He finished with 25 points on 9 of 13 shooting, including 3 of 4 from beyond the arc.

2. The Flu Game

The Mavs trailed the Heat 2-1 entering Game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals and Nowitzki had come down with the flu. He played anyway and as coach Rick Carlisle described it, “willed” the Mavs to victory. He scored 10 of his team-leading 21 points in the fourth quarter, including a driving layup to give Dallas a three-point lead with 14.9 seconds left in the game. Adding to the legend of the game is the fact that Heat stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were caught mocking Nowitzki’s illness on camera. It was a bad look for them but one of the most courageous moments in Nowitzki’s career.

1. World Champs

Nothing trumps a title and Nowitzki helped lead the Mavs to their only championship in 2011. His game-winning layup in the final seconds of Game 2 capped a stunning comeback to tie the series with the Miami Heat 1-1. and the Mavs won in six games. He averaged 26 points and 9.7 rebounds in the Finals and was named the Finals MVP. In 21 playoff games in ‘11, Nowitzki averaged 27.7 points, shot 48.5% from the field, including 46% from the arc and 94.1% from the free-throw line.

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Stefan Stevenson has been covering sports for the Star-Telegram since 1997. He spent five years covering TCU athletics, which included two BCS bowls, two trips to the college World Series and the move to the Big 12. He has covered the Texas Rangers since 2014 and started reporting on the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.