HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Dirk Nowitzki moved past Wilt Chamberlain Saturday night and into 15th place on the NBA’s all-time free throws made list.
In his 1,076th career game, Dirk collected eight more free throws to total 6,059 on 6,910 attempts. That’s 87.7 percent, currently good for a tie for 13th all-time with Jeff Hornacek. Only four active players have better career free-throw percentages — No. 1 Steve Nash (90.4), No. 5 Chauncey Billups (89.4), No. 6 Ray Allen (89.3) and No. 12 Kevin Durant (88.2).
But back to Wilt’s free throws and a little comparison to Dirk because these numbers are really mind-blowing:
* In 1,045 games — 31 fewer than Dirk has played to this point — Wilt made two fewer free throws (6,057) on 4,952 more attempts.
* Dirk has averaged 6.4 free throws a game; Wilt averaged 11.4.
* Dirk, 18th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list (24,442 career points), has missed 851 free-throw attempts.
* Wilt, fourth on the all-time scoring list (31,419), missed 5,805 free- throw attempts.
Dirk’s percentage has dipped a bit this season. After going 8-for-11 from the free-throw line in Saturday’s blowout win over the Golden State Warriors, Dirk is shooting just 78.5 percent from the free- throw line, his low-water mark by far since finishing his rookie season at 77.3 percent.
The slippage is rather stunning considering Dirk finished six of the last seven seasons at 89.0 percent or better (the other season was 87.9 percent).
The only conclusion is that the Oct. 19 athroscopic surgery on his right knee that sidelined him for the first 27 games of the season has taken a toll on a player who has always featured a pronounced knee bend in his shooting form (his 40.7 field-goal percentage is also the lowest since his rookie season).
That aside, Dirk remains one of the game’s all-time great free-throw shooters and he needs to average just under 4.0 made free throws in the final 32 games of the regular season to pass Bob Pettit (6,182) and move into 14th place.
In any other season, that would seem automatic, but this season Dirk is averaging just 2.9 made free throws a game. Prior to this season, he averaged 5.7 made free throws a game.
Whether it happens this season or next, it will happen. In fact, by the second half of next season Dirk should take his place in the top 10 all-time for most free throws made.
He’s just 317 away from overtaking No. 10 Allen Iverson (6,375), who despite his preference, doesn’t appear headed to an NBA free throw line ever again.