Europeans In The NBA
|Dirk Nowitzki has been working tirelessly towards the moment he experienced last Sunday night in Miami for the past 13 years of his life|
It turns out there was a reason for the mad dash of Dirk Nowitzki to the Dallas locker room immediately after the Mavericks' NBA title-clinching, Game 6 triumph over the Miami Heat.
Most players might have jumped on the scorer's table and lit a cigar or jumped into the arms of teammates.
But not Nowitzki.
He ran off the court.
Nowitzki was blur.
"I could already feel the tears coming," Nowitzki said.
"I had to recover, bro."
Working his entire professional life for that first NBA Championship takes a toll on a man.
It didn't seem fair that Nowitzki, who has received so many honors and so much recognition in his career, should have to redeem himself.
But he needed to, and he did.
In 2005, Nowitzki was the MVP of EuroBasket after leading Germany to the silver medal and also the FIBA Europe Player of the Year.
He was the first, and still only, European to be named league MVP after the 2006-07 NBA season.
What defines a player most in a team sport like basketball, though, are not the individual accolades but the championships.
Michael Jordan's greatness wasn't confirmed until he won his first with the Chicago Bulls.
Nowitzki had been so close to a first title in 2006 when leading Dallas to victory in the first two games against the Miami Heat.
Then Miami reeled off four consecutive wins.
Miami's Dwyane Wade ensured he'd go down as one of the all-time greats in that series, earning MVP honors, and whether he meant to rub salt in Nowitzki's wound or not, he did when saying the German hadn't been the leader that he was supposed to be in the closing moments of the big games.
He hadn't, many said, done enough for the Mavericks in their greatest hour of need and that was a burden carried by Nowitzki for five, long years.
Now that criticism has been laid to rest by one of the greatest post-season runs for a player.
He averaged five more minutes per game (39.3 avg) in the NBA play-offs and 4.7 points (27.7 avg) more per contest as well.
Nowitzki overcame a sinus infection and a 38.5 degree temperature while leading the Mavs to victory in one Finals game.
Just short of his 33rd birthday, Nowitzki finally smashed the only impediment to his being regarded as one of the all-time greats.
Even sweeter is that fact that Nowitzki did it with Dallas.
He could have left and joined a team that had a better chance of winning a title like so many others have done before, some successfully and others not.
That is something LeBron James could have done in Cleveland, he could have stayed.
But he bolted for Miami last summer to play with other superstars like Wade and Chris Bosh.
That Nowitzki stayed, and brought the title home to Dallas, is a true sign of a legend.
More than 250,000 people are expected to take to the streets of the Texan city to watch the champions's parade on Thursday, Dallas City Hall officials announced.
This is a great moment to cherish for Europe.
The old continent has been spoiled by NBA success before.
French point guard Tony Parker was an NBA Finals MVP with San Antonio.
There were back-to-back titles for Pau Gasol and the Lakers.
Each of those franchises, though, have had other players deemed to be the leaders.
With San Antonio, it was Tim Duncan.
With Los Angeles, it was Kobe Bryant.
For Dallas, it always has been and always will be Dirk.
Just as Germany has always been Nowitzki's team, so are the Mavericks.