In one the the NBA’s most improbable title runs, Dirk Nowitzki at one point topped both Kobe Bryant’s Los Angele Lakers and LeBron James’ Miami Heat. His former team, the Dallas Mavericks, also topped the Lakers over the weekend with him in attendance.
Nowitzki spoke to Mark Medina of USA Today about that experience, as well as what both players and the Lakers as an organization mean for the league.
“It’s amazing the basketball culture this club has had for such a long time,” Nowitzki said of the Lakers. “Kobe and LeBron were always two of my favorites to watch and compete against. They know how to prepare with how they’re ready, how they compete every game and their skill level. Definitely two of the best to ever do it.”
Solid I-beat-both-those-guys-for-an-NBA-championship humble-brag, bro.
Jokes aside, Nowitzki’s 2011 playoff run was legitimately incredible. Not only did he end the careers of Phil Jackson and Andrew Bynum, but he helped usher in the legitimacy of pace and space that dominates the concept of offense as we think about it now.
Seriously, consider how effective Nowitzki would be in a LeBron James offense. Just imagine for a second how much better Dirk would’ve made Kobe, who was already pretty incredible in traffic. Nowitzki helped modernize basketball not just through his own skill individually, but also through his success.
And really, that’s what this all comes down to. Nowitzki helped push modern basketball forward not just by elements of his own game, but by how easy he made the sport for those around him, to the point that every team was searching for some sort of pseudo-Dirk archetype of big to space the floor now. None of them are quite the same, but you can see his influence on the modern NBA on a game-by-game basis.
Despite his own success, though, Nowitzki remained in awe of the athletes his teams were beating. It’s what helped make him so endearing at the time, and what maintains his popularity to this day. Shouts to Dirk.