|15 April 2013|
EUROPEANS IN THE NBA
|German superstar Dirk Nowitzki added another achievement to his stellar career on Sunday night |
Dirk Nowitzki has collected several accolades in his illustrious career, but the milestone he reached on Sunday night was definitely the first to be rewarded with a sharp electric razor.
The German superstar scored 19 points in the 107-89 win of the Dallas Mavericks on-the-road victory over the New Orleans Hornets, to become only the 17th player in the history of the NBA to pass the 25,000 career points landmark, and the first ever European to do so.
There were no champagne bottles popping open after the game to celebrate the occasion; instead, Nowitzki rushed to the locker room to take his first shave in over two months.
He and most of his Dallas team-mates had taken a vow back in the winter to not shave until the team had reached a 50% win-loss percentage.
The success against the Hornets came a few days after they were eliminated from contention for a play-off spot in the Western Conference, but it did lift them to a 40-40 record.
"I'm not sure, it's a toss up," the charismatic power forward replied when he was asked by reporters whether it felt sweeter at that moment to have joined the 25,000+ points club, or to finally be able to get rid of the castaway-like beard he had been sporting all this time.
"Some food was caught in there from a few weeks ago," Nowitzki joked in his new clean-shaven look in front of the TV cameras several moments later.
He was so relieved in fact, that he went on to give detailed information on the performance of the (two) razors that were employed to bring the long-awaited task to a successful conclusion.
Or maybe, just as one would expect to him, the beard-shaving incident served as the perfect decoy from the real accomplishment.
If there is anything Nowitzki hates more than missing out on the play-offs with Dallas for the first time in 12 years, is talking about himself.
"I knew I had to get 10 [points] today, the guys knew it too," Nowitzki said.
"We kept running one play after another for me to get it."
Also as expected, he scored the basket that brought him to 25,001 points with one of his trademark mid-range jumpers, midway through the second quarter.
"Actually the shot right before, I thought was going in, and it rolled out.
"The coach (Rick Carlisle) came right back and called another play for me.
"We wanted to get it over there in the first half so we could focus on winning this game.
"But I'm proud of how the guys played.
"I would have loved to do it at home, for our fans that supported me over the last 15 years and came out every year, came out every game, and even this year when we were struggling, the gym's always full."
It was Carlisle that put the milestone into perspective and explained exactly how it really fits into the wider picture of what Nowitzki has accomplished in his career.
"He's the only 7-foot-1 (2.15m tall) guy who has ever played the game the way he does," the Mavericks coach said.
"That is by being good around the basket, being great in mid-range and being great a long distance away, driving it, having the ability to shoot any kind of off-balance shot possible."
"He's not only a great player, he's an innovator and a pioneer in this game.
"He'll go down in history as one of the guys that really changed the game."
Under pressure from reporters, Nowitzki himself had no option but to concur, up to a point of course.
"That's an unbelievable accomplishment, obviously," he agreed.
"When I first got in this league, not knowing if I could make it here, that was a tough first year for me.
"[I was] in and out of the line-up, not strong enough to play with the big boys.
"But Nellie [Don Nelson, who was the head coach at Dallas during Nowitzki's first seven seasons in the NBA] was great for me, he gave me a lot of confidence.
"The rest is history.
"Hard work; I think I worked hard over my 15 years in the league, and it has paid off."
With two games remaining until the end of the Regular Season, Nowitzki has been averaging 17.2 points-per-game, his lowest since his rookie year in 1998/99, after missing the first 27 encounters in the season due to an arthroscopic knee surgery.