Dallas Mavericks

Emotional night as Dirk says goodbye to Dallas. ‘It’s going to be tough without him’

Dallas Mavericks fans go wild for Dirk Nowitzki

Fans at American Airlines Center cheer for Dirk Nowitzki as he takes the court for the last home game of the Mavericks' season. Many believe that this could be Nowitzki's last year with the team.
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Fans at American Airlines Center cheer for Dirk Nowitzki as he takes the court for the last home game of the Mavericks' season. Many believe that this could be Nowitzki's last year with the team.

The Dallas Mavericks and their fans said goodbye to Dirk Nowitzki on Tuesday night.

The 40-year-old legend, who is finishing up his 21st season in the NBA, played his final game at American Airlines Center.

Nowitzki, who finally made it official during Tuesday’s postgame tribute, will wrap up his hallowed career Wednesday night in San Antonio.

Tuesday’s Dallas finale couldn’t have gone better if scripted.

Nowitzki scored 10 points in the first three minutes as his teammates kept dishing him the ball. His first shot, a mid-range jumper, was good and the 20,000-plus in attendance roared in appreciation. A minute later, Nowitzki’s first 3-point attempt from the top of the key was good and the AAC crowd erupted like it was an NBA Finals game.

Nowitzki played much like he did in the old days, finishing with 30 points, eight rebounds and three assists as the Mavericks won 120-109. He played for almost 33 minutes, the most in a game this season.

Before the tip-off, Devin Harris and J.J. Barea spoke briefly at center court on behalf of Nowitzki’s teammates, paying their respects to their 7-foot friend.

“The person he is everybody knows and I don’t know if this franchise is ready for post-Dirk,” Barea said in the locker room before the game. “It’s going to be tough without him.”

The AAC crowd was buzzing long before the 7:35 p.m. tip. Most were in their seats to watch Nowitzki warm up and be introduced as part of the starting lineup one final time. When his name was called, the crowd roar was deafening.

During a timeout in the second quarter, a video highlighting the many trips Nowitzki made to visit sick children in hospitals was played and it got to him. He teared up at midcourt before play resumed. He came out of the game shortly afterward.

Nowitzki led the Mavs with 19 points in the first half, already two shy of his season-high. He was 7 of 18 from the field, including 4 of 8 from the 3-point arc, by halftime.

During the halftime break, a tribute video was played featuring some of the current and former all-time greats of the game, including LeBron James, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The video also included former teammates Tyson Chandler, Michael Finley, Mavs president Donnie Nelson, his wife Jessica Nowitzki, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle and Mavs owner Mark Cuban. They all took turns extolling Nowitzki’s greatness and the significance of his historic career coming to an end.

After the game, NBA legends Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Shawn Kemp and Detlef Schrempf were introduced to help pay tribute to his career. Rick Carlisle expressed his gratitude for being able to coach most of Nowitzki’s NBA career. He spoke of the person Nowitzki is, not just his talents on the basketball floor.

“That may be your greatest legacy,” Carlisle said to Nowitzki from the court.

Barkley had the crowd in stitches with a story about the first time he met Nowitzki as a teenager. But each of the five player’ remarks touched on not only the players Nowitzki is, but the person, too.

“Let me say this about Dirk Nowitzki: He’s the nicest man ever,” he said. “It’s been an honor and privilege to watch you.”

Added Bird: “You played the game the right way. Thank you for all the memories. God bless you.”

And former President George W. Bush congratulated Nowitzki via video message.

”If you ever get bored, come paint with me,” Bush said.

Fans at American Airlines Center cheer for Dirk Nowitzki as he takes the court for the last home game of the Mavericks' season. Many believe that this could be Nowitzki's last year with the team.

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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.

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