DALLAS (AP)Dirk Nowitzki stood with his son Max, both ready to push the lever that would unveil the statue of the retired Dallas Mavericks star outside the team’s arena.
It already had been revealed that the statue depicted Nowitzki’s signature one-legged fadeaway jumper. Not that there ever was any question.
”That jump shot, just going up to the sky, creating all type of rain,” said Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Ham, whose team lost to the Mavericks 124-115 in the Christmas Day game that followed the Nowitzki ceremony Sunday.
Nowitzki has a street named after him not far from American Airlines Center, where his jersey is in the rafters. And now there’s a nearly 24-foot statue on the plaza south of the arena, unveiled on a chilly but sunny morning.
”It was emotional,” said Nowitzki, the only NBA player to spend all 21 seasons with the same franchise. ”When the thing went up, felt like the sun was just perfect today, just shining right on it.”
The biggest of those multiple moments honoring Nowitzki’s career came on the 11th anniversary of the only other Christmas home game for the Mavericks.
Nowitzki was the face of the franchise then, opening defense of the club’s only NBA title in the lockout-delayed 2011-12 season.
The new face, 23-year-old star guard Luka Doncic, watched the ceremony from just behind Nowitzki with several teammates and coach Jason Kidd.
”I’m just happy for him,” said Doncic, who was Nowitzki’s teammate his rookie year. ”He deserves all those things that are happening to him. The statue looks amazing.”
Kidd, Nowitzki’s point guard on the 2011 title team, had to throw in at least a couple of barbs, deciding to poke fun at the defense of the NBA’s highest-scoring foreign-born player.
”They picked the right move,” Kidd told reporters later. ”I don’t think they were going to use the swipe (on defense) or him passing the ball. You see his stats on passing? He was a ball hog.”
Sculptor Omri Amrany has created statues of other retired NBA stars in Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal. He worked mostly with Nowitzki mentor Holder Geschwindner, who shaped the 7-foot German’s one-legged fadeaway.
Nowitzki’s family came from Germany along with Gershwindner, and the 44-year-old couldn’t say enough times what it meant to have his mom and dad witness the ceremony.
It came four days after Nowitzki was nominated for the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame alongside Gregg Popovich, coach of Texas rival San Antonio, retired Spurs guard Tony Parker and Dwyane Wade, who beat Nowitzki in the 2006 NBA Finals with Miami before losing to him with LeBron James in 2011.
Nowitzki’s title came the year James and Chris Bosh joined Wade and the Heat, who went on to win the next two championships. Nowitzki stayed through some lean final years in Dallas, mostly because he had what he wanted most.
”I’m so happy I didn’t have to do that and it worked out this way,” Nowitzki said. ”Once we won the championship, I knew I wanted to be here and finish my career here.”
Nowitzki is sixth on the career scoring list with 31,560 points and the leader in every other significant offensive category for the Mavericks. He is a consultant for owner Mark Cuban and spends most of his time in Dallas with his wife, Jessica, and three children.
As the three-year statue project dragged on, Nowitzki pondered the theme that would accompany the base. When it came time to decide, he said he got lucky in picking something with 21 letters, matching his 21 seasons with the Mavericks.
”Loyalty never fades away.”
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