DALLAS.– German superstar power forward Dirk Nowitzki has officially announced that he will retire from the NBA after 21 seasons, all of them spent with the Dallas Mavericks.
The announcement, which he made after the Mavericks defeated the Phoenix Suns 120-109 Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center in their second-to-last game of 2018-2019 season, came as a surprise to no one because the 40-year-old Nowitzki had taken on a much more limited role with the team due to age and injuries.
The 2.13-meter (7-foot) Nowitzki, who set a league record by playing 21 seasons with the same team, leaves the game as a beloved figure in Dallas and a player universally respected by his peers, coaches and virtually everyone associated with basketball.
The future Hall of Fame player scored a season-high 30 points against the Suns on Tuesday night to lift his career total to 31,540, the most ever by a foreign player.
In a game last month at the American Airlines Center, Nowitzki moved past legendary center Wilt Chamberlain into sixth place on the all-time NBA scoring list.
The 14-time All-Star is one of many great seven footers to have played in the league, but he is arguably the greatest long-range shooter that height to ever put on a uniform, a talent that he rode to an NBA Most Valuable Player Award in 2007 and the Mavericks’ lone league title in 2011.
His illustrious career will end after one final away game on Wednesday night against the San Antonio Spurs because the rebuilding Mavericks (33-48) did not make the playoffs.
Nowitzki trails only five players on the all-time scoring list: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387 points), Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Michael Jordan.
Fans across the NBA have paid tribute to Nowitzki in expectation that this season would be his last, many of whom chanted «We Want Dirk» at games to urge Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle to insert the veteran star as a substitute.
After his 30-point performance on Tuesday night, the German finally made his plans official.
«As you might expect,» Nowitzki told the fans in Dallas, «this was my last home game.»
«This is obviously super, super emotional. Just too many people to really thank. I put you guys on a helluva ride with a lot of ups and downs, and you guys always stuck with me and supported me, so I appreciate it.»
Nowitzki missed the first 26 games of the 2018-2019 season due to complications in his recovery from ankle surgery and averaged a career-low 7.1 points in 2018-2019.
But Carlisle said at the farewell ceremony that this season may have been one of the player’s «greatest triumphs» considering the rehabilitation work he had to endure to get himself ready for games.
Several legends of the NBA were on hand for Tuesday night’s farewell ceremony, including Hall of Fame inductees Larry Bird, Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen.
Barkley, who is now a popular commentator, says he is always asked what different NBA players are like.
«Let me say this about Dirk Nowitzki. He’s the nicest man ever,» the former Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns great said emphatically.
Pippen also focused on Nowitzki’s character above all.
«I love the game of basketball. And I love when people play the game the right way. You played the game the right way, man. You’ve inspired people all over the world … You’re one of the best,» the ex-Chicago Bulls superstar said.
One other former player at the ceremony, six-time NBA All-Star Shawn Kemp, hailed Nowitzki’s loyalty to one team.
He also recalled his outstanding performance in leading the 2010-2011 Mavericks to an upset victory over James, Dwyane Wade (who also is retiring at the end of this season), Chris Bosh and the rest of the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
«Just for you being in Dallas for all these years, the same team, same family, same people. It speaks for itself,» Kemp said as the fans at American Airlines Center erupted in applause. «Not only that, (but) you brought a championship to Dallas. You are a champion.»
Longtime Mavericks owner Mark Cuban also was effusive in his praise for Nowitzki at the ceremony.
«There’s no words that I could possibly say to describe how I feel what you meant to this organization,» Cuban said.
«I’ll promise you that everything you taught us will continue on. I’ll promise you that you have a job for life. I don’t care what you do. I’ll promise you that we’ll retire your number, not a tough decision. And I’ll promise you we will put the biggest, most badass statue ever. And we’ll put it right in front of the arena.»