Watch Dirk Nowitzki make the final shot of his career
Fans chanted “MVP” and cheered every made shot. It was, for a night, American Airlines Center South.
Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki played the final game of his storied, 21-year career Wednesday night against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center.
And although it lacked the emotional punch of Tuesday’s home finale at the AAC in Dallas, the night remained a tribute to Nowitzki and his Hall of Fame career. He finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds — his first double-double of the season — in the Mavs’ 105-94 loss.
With 46 seconds left, Nowitzki took a pass at the top of the key and nailed an 18-footer jumper to cap his game and career. The sellout crowd of nearly 19,000, most on their feet, roared their approval.
The cheers continued moments later when coach Rick Carlisle pulled Nowitzki from the game for one final nod of appreciation.
Nowitzki scored 30 points on 11 of 31 shooting in his home finale on Tuesday. In his last game, he was 8 of 21 from the field, including 2 of 6 from the 3-point arc.
“These last two nights were as amazing as it gets for me, for myself,” he said. “I’ll never forget these moments and I’ll always cherish it.
“It felt like a home game. I heard the MVP chants. I can’t thank the Spurs enough. That was super classy.”
The Spurs organization and their fans made it clear before the opening tip that they were there to not only finish the regular season, but also to pay tribute to one of their biggest rivals the past 21 seasons.
They played a tribute video before the opening tip and it moved Nowitzki to tears. Their public address announcer gave him an introduction fit for a hometown player.
Carlisle and Nowitzki shared an emotional embrace as he reached the Mavs’ bench.
“I think it’s really appropriate that our last images of Dirk playing in an NBA game are him putting up games like tonight and last night,” Carlisle said. “It will never be the same after this.”
As he walked off an NBA court for the last time, Nowitzki felt relief “but fired up for everything that it was over.”
“When you see how visiting arenas are feeling about Dirk, not just tonight, but all season long,” Carlisle said, “and knowing this is the final moment, it’s a combination of the best heartwarming [feeling] on the one hand but kind of empty on the other.
“I’m just so glad he ended this magnificent career with a magnificent level of both performance and dignity. Knowing him, none of us expected anything less.”
Nowitzki, who didn’t officially announce his retirement until after Tuesday’s game, said it was a bittersweet feeling.
“It’s tough to let something go that you love so much, that you’ve been doing basically for your entire life, something that you lived and breathed for over 20 years,” he said.
“It’s going to be tough for a few months, maybe even years, but I’ll try to enjoy the heck out of 21 years.”