Dallas Mavericks

Dirk moved to tears after Spurs’ tribute before final game

Popovich: ‘Dirk’s career won’t be duplicated’

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said it was an honor to coach against Dirk Nowitzki and said his career won't be duplicated.
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San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said it was an honor to coach against Dirk Nowitzki and said his career won't be duplicated.

A day after his emotional goodbye to fans at American Airlines Center, the tears were in Dirk Nowitzki’s eyes again.

The Dallas Mavericks legend played the final game of his 21-year career Wednesday night against the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center.

Nowitzki was moved to tears by a video tribute from the Spurs that played right before he was introduced as if he was a hometown player.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich paid tribute to Nowitzki, 40, before the game, calling it an honor to watch him play “for all these years.”

“I feel really blessed that that kind of talent could be enjoyed for so long,” Popovich said. “He put in a lot of hours. The most impressive thing for me is his competitiveness. Night in and night out, every game he competes at the highest level. Takes no prisoners. That never wavered in his career.”

For Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, the idea of not having Nowitzki on his roster is still hard to fathom. Both Carlisle and Popovich echoed Charles Barkley’s sentiments during Tuesday’s AAC post-game tribute in which he called Nowitzki the “most humble superstar we’ve ever had.”

“I just have never seemed someone of his magnitude as a player do so much for so many and ask for so little in return,” Carlisle said. “The level of kindness he displays on a consistent basis belies today’s player. It’s something I’m really going to miss.”

Carlisle hopes his young teammates have made notes, especially rookie Luka Doncic.

“My hope is the guys who have had a chance to be around him, whether it’s been a few years or a few months, that they have gotten a real glimpse into the world of what true greatness is both competitively and on the human side,” he said.

Popovich said Nowitzki’s class never wavered, win or lose.

“He hated losing but he exhibited the class that is necessary to set an example for other people and a group of guys,” Popovich said. “It’s one of those unique careers that can’t be duplicated. He helped establish that there were great players all over the world and that’s part of his legacy.”

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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.