LOS ANGELES — Dirk Nowitzki is in what should be the ‘twilight” of his NBA career, if you based it purely on years of service.
But the Dallas Mavericks’ superstar is undergoing a career rejuvenation, of sorts, some 13 years into his NBA career. And now that Nowitzki and his Mavericks have vanquished the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, sweeping them in the Western Conference semifinals Sunday in Dallas, the debate about where Nowitzki stands all-time can be revisited.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, clearly a bit biased considering his relationship with Nowitzki, makes the argument that Dirk belongs on the Top 10 (of all-time) list. More from ESPNDallas.com:
“In my opinion, he’s a top 10 player in NBA history because of the uniqueness of his game and how he’s carried this franchise on his back for over a decade,” Carlisle told “ESPN First Take” on Monday. “He’s just right. He’s leading the team. His shot-making is great. He’s passing the ball great. He’s one of the guys that’s directing traffic for us defensively.”
Sure, Nowitzki has been the league MVP (2006-07), and he’s been the one constant on the floor during the Mavericks’ run of 11 consecutive 50-win seasons. Only the Bill Russell-led Boston Celtics (1959-1968), the Magic Johnson-led Lakers (1980-91) and the Tim Duncan-led San Antonio Spurs (2000-present) have had comparable runs.
Those teams, however, won championships. Dirk has yet to win an NBA title, making his only Finals appearance in 2006 when the Mavericks lost to the Miami Heat in six games.
“He’s got one thing missing from the mantle and that drives him,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson told ESPN 103.3 FM on Monday morning. “We’ve maybe been spoiled by how good he is.”
We’ve all been spoiled a bit by Nowitzki’s consistent brilliance. He’s been the centerpiece of an elite team for roughly the past decade. Championship or not, he’s headed to the Hall of Fame some day.
But does he rank that high?
We decided to put it to a vote, so feel free to chime in: