Dallas Mavericks

Now that Dirk is retired, who will take his place as DFW’s most beloved athlete?

Mark Cuban addresses replacing Dirk Nowitzki

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban talks about the team moving on from Dirk Nowitzki at Dirk's Heroes Celebrity Softball game in Frisco.
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Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban talks about the team moving on from Dirk Nowitzki at Dirk's Heroes Celebrity Softball game in Frisco.

Rejoice, for Dirk Nowitzki is fat.

“I’m enjoying he has a pot belly bigger than mine,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said.

Let’s just slooow down there, Shark Tank. But Der Mann does have Der Gut, and it is glorious. Spread out over a 7-foot frame, however, said gut doesn’t look the same as on us humanoids.

Seeing Dirk stroll around the Frisco Rough Riders baseball field on Thursday morning, one day before his annual Heroes Celebrity Baseball game, was fulfilling. From ice cream, pizza, wine and eating anything else he wants without fear of preparing an NBA game, Dirk is clearly full.

Now that he will have a fall, and a spring, free for the first time since he stood merely 6-foot-4 as a toddler, I asked him what he wants to do in those months.

“I might to go Oktoberfest. Is that where you’re going?” he asked.

Actually no, but ... now that you mention it.

“The calendar has filled up pretty quick. I am doing the tennis event (in Dallas) again in September, and my soccer game in Germany in July,” he said. “There is already a bunch of stuff. I’ll go home a bunch to see my family. Just enjoying some time with my folks, and traveling.”

You have to be happy for Dirk, who will have Olive Street in downtown Dallas renamed “Nowitzki Way.” The city confirmed it on Thursday.

We have focused so much on the void he is leaving the Dallas Mavericks with that we have missed the celestial-sized crater his absence will create in all of DFW. This charity game originally belonged to one of the best good guys in DFW sports history, Mike Modano.

Mo’ gave it to Dirk, who has made this a standing room only event.

Dirk is not sure if he’s going to continue this game, but it begs the question who in this town is beloved and revered enough to maintain it should he have that desire?

The guy must be beloved. He must be one of the best at his position. He must win a title. He must have the personality.

Mike Modano had it. Dirk. Michael Young did, but ...

The list of candidates is alarmingly narrow.

DAK PRESCOTT

As the QB of America’s Team, he has the keys to the most valuable franchise in North America. He is personable, engaging, and he can do this. He just needs a ring.

LUKA DONCIC

The heir to Dirk has the game but he does not possess the personality, or confidence, yet to own the town. As he continues to master English, we should see more of personality off the floor.

It’s all there, but The Luka is more of a project than we want to admit.

“Playing wise, I am not going to leave that much of a void honestly,” Dirk said. “The last two years, I was a little slow. We are in good hands. We are in good shape with Luka having the rookie season he had. I think people can’t wait to see what (Kristaps) Porzingis brings to the team.”

JOEY GALLO

The Rangers outfielder, before he went on the 10-day disabled list, is in the midst of the season the team envisioned. The USS Gallo has the bat, and the personality, to do this. He has to show a bit more off it than we have seen.

His challenge will be to eventually “own” the clubhouse, which he does not, to become a regular All-Star, and then lead the Rangers to a World Series.

His other problem to replace a Dirk is that Joseph plays baseball in a non-baseball town. Sorry, but Josh Hamilton is right.

JAMIE BENN/TYLER SEGUIN/MIRO HEISKANEN

The Dallas Stars trio of star skaters have the game, but they play hockey. And none of them is Mike Modano.

JAYLON SMITH/LEIGHTON VANDER ESCH

The Cowboys linebackers have the potential to become all-time DFW characters, particularly Smith. He has the game, the smile and the personality, to become The Franchise next to Dak.

With his “Wolf Howl,” LVE is a talented, marketable young player. As a rookie last season, he was fairly quiet in the locker room, which is to be expected. Expect to see more of his personality in 2019.

Like everyone else on this list, they all need a ring.

Then and only then might we find a guy who can continue Modano and Dirk’s legacy.

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