EUROPEANS IN THE NBA
|Dirk Nowitzki is now in 16th place on the NBA's all-time scoring list and is quickly locking in on the top 10 |
On Tuesday night, Dirk Nowitzki made the headlines on both sides of the Atlantic for one more time during his illustrious career, by passing Jerry West for 16th place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.
The German star overcame the NBA's emblematic figure when he received a behind-the-back pass from Gal Mekel and drilled a triple from eight meters out, scoring his 16th point in the 105-95 win of the Dallas Mavericks over the Washington Wizards at home.
"That's the friggin' logo," was Dirk's reaction last week, when journalists first told him that he was inching closer to overcoming West on the list.
Jerry West's dribbling silhouette is widely believed to be the one immortalised on the NBA red-white-and-blue logo.
"He [West] was obviously a little before my time," Nowitzki said.
"But I love the history of the game and have watched plenty of games, watched him shoot.
"He was really the first guy to have a really pure jump shot like that.
"He's the man. He's clutch. And he's the logo."
Nowitzki tallied 19 points in Tuesday's game and now has 25,197 career points, five more than West and 82 points less than Indiana Pacers legend Reggie Miller.
The big German is averaging 18.3 points-per-game so far this season and at this rate, he will make the headlines once again before the end of November, when he passes the sharp-shooting Miller for 15th place.
In his usual humble tone, after paying tribute to West, Nowitzki underplayed the achievement.
"Like I always say, all these milestones are great once my career is over," he said by way of drawing a line and turning the focus on his team.
But the Wurzburg-born star is now in his 16th season in the NBA, will be turning 36 in June and that point where his legacy will be assessed is approaching fast.
Dirk has already secured a place in the NBA pantheon, as he is an 11-time All Star, has won the title and the MVP award, and in the collective subconscious of American fans his status as the '7-footer' with the best jumper ever seen in the league is more than safe.
Despite the fact this might be the last thing on his mind right now, there is one more accolade he will need to collect in order to be recognised, at least by way of statistical confirmation, as the best non-American player ever in the NBA.
NBA Hall of Fame member Hakeem Olajuwon, nicknamed 'The Dream' because of his plastic moves around the rim, to many the best center of all time, is in ninth place on the all-time scorers list, with 26,946 points.
If Nowitzki passes 'The Dream', he will not only become the first European player to make the Top 10 of the NBA's all-time scorers, but will also become the top non-US player on this list.
Olajuwon acquired American nationality late in his career but he is still considered an 'international player' for the NBA as he was born in Nigeria.
|Dirk Nowitzki is the only European player to feature on the list of top-30 All-time NBA leading scorers|
Surpassing the 26,946-mark does not guarantee Nowitzki ninth place, as Brooklyn Nets big man Kevin Garnett is also still active and something of a moving target for the big German, as he is currently 14th on the table with 25,310 points.
But the milestone would guarantee Dirk of Top-10 status for the foreseeable future, as the likes of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Tim Duncan are over 1,000 points behind the German star and they are also approaching the twilight of their careers.
Nowitzki could catch 'The Dream' before the Regular Season is over, if he averages 21.3 points over the next 74 games.
However, he last averaged that much during the 2011/12 season (his best year in terms of scoring was 2005/06, when he scored 26.6 points-per-Regular Season game).
At his current scoring average of 18.3 points-per-game, Dirk would need 96 games to catch up with Olajuwon.
Even a deep play-off run from Dallas is unlikely to see him play this many games before the season is over, so this leaves him with no option but to stay healthy and return for one more season in the NBA.
His contract with Dallas runs only until the summer but if his right knee, on which he underwent arthroscopic surgery last season, is not a factor, it is safe to assume the German star will not run into employment trouble if he feels like adding a 17th year to his NBA career.
Provided all goes well in that aspect, his boss at Dallas has no doubt that Dirk will keep pouring in the buckets he needs.
"Of all the players I've been around in 30 years, whenever we've been in the play-offs, whether we're home or on the road, he comes in the night before games," Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said.
"He goes to the venues and he shoots.
"It's religion for him to work on it and be proficient at it."
Top 20 NBA All-Time Scoring Leaders
*denotes active player
|Player ||Games ||PPG ||Points |
|Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ||1560 ||24,6 ||38,387 |
|Karl Malone ||1476 ||25,0 ||36,298 |
|Michael Jordan ||1072 ||30,1 ||32,292 |
|Kobe Bryant* ||1239 ||25,5 ||31,617 |
|Wilt Chamberlain ||1045 ||30,1 ||31,419 |
|Shaquille O'Neal ||1207 ||23,7 ||28,596 |
|Moses Malone ||1329 ||20,6 ||27,409 |
|Elvin Hayes ||1303 ||21,0 ||27,313 |
|Hakeem Olajuwon ||1238 ||21,8 ||26,946 |
|Oscar Robertson ||1040 ||25,7 ||26,710 |
|Dominique Wilkins ||1074 ||24,8 ||26,668 |
|John Havlicek ||1270 ||20,8 ||26,395 |
|Alex English ||1193 ||21,5 ||25,613 |
|Kevin Garnett* ||1329 ||19,0 ||25,310 |
|Reggie Miller ||1389 ||18,2 ||25,279 |
|Dirk Nowitzki* ||1116 ||22,6 ||25,197 |
|Jerry West ||932 ||27,0 ||25,192 |
|Patrick Ewing ||1183 ||21,0 ||24,815 |
|Allen Iverson ||914 ||26,7 ||24,368 |
|Paul Pierce* ||1108 ||21,8 ||24,103 |