WHO: Dirk Nowitzki and Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers.
WHAT: One of the classiest send-offs for a retiring legend we’ve ever seen.
WHY IT’S SO GREAT: Over the past two decades, Dirk Nowitzki has become the most beloved part of Dallas sports. The 7-foot-tall German is the only player in NBA history to have spent an entire 21-year career with a single team (14 of those seasons as an all-star). He brought Dallas a championship in an epic battle over the newly-acquired “Big Three” in Miami. He endured through the lean years, and led during the good ones. As the Mavs are all but eliminated from playoff contention, the forty-year-old is heading into an expected retirement, but he still plays with the same dignity he’s always shown. In the final tally of who mattered in basketball, Dirk will stand as one of the greats.
That’s not just our opinion, either. Last night, as the Mavs played what will likely be Nowitzki’s final game in Los Angeles, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers took a moment to honor him. With 9.4 seconds left in the game and the Mavs down by 9, Rivers called an unexpected time-out and got on the mic to address the crowd at the Staples Center. “Dirk Nowitzki!” he shouted, imploring the crowd to rise as he pointed to the Mavs’ power forward. “Let’s go! Let’s go!” The crowd, recognizing the moment, began its ovation. “One of the greatest of all time!” Rivers intoned, as Dirk gave a humble thumbs-up, Clippers players approached to slap hands, and the announcers remarked on how unusual Rivers’ move was.
Doc Rivers takes the PA mic with 9.4 seconds left to urge the LA crowd to cheer on Dirk Nowitzki— Nick Angstadt (@NickVanExit) February 26, 2019
"One of the greatest players of all time! Let's go!" pic.twitter.com/Vrijs3EBAU
The game was Nowitzki’s 1,500th of his career, making him just the fourth player in NBA history to hit the milestone, and he responded to it with characteristic charm in a post-game press conference. “It was sweet,” Nowitzki said of the gesture. “I’m really appreciative. At first I was like, ‘Why is Doc calling a timeout? What’s he doing with [9.4] seconds left? What’s he up to? Then he grabbed the mic. I didn’t really understand much, but that was really humbling. That was an emotional moment.”
It’s still possible that Nowitzki returns for a 22nd season, since he hasn’t formally announced his retirement, but regardless of when he plays his last season, he’s one of the longest-tenured and most beloved players in the game’s history, and will find his place in the Mount Rushmore of Texas NBA legends, alongside David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Tim Duncan.