DALLAS — Dirk Nowitzki shot past “The Logo” on Tuesday night and is bearing down on Reggie Miller.
The Dallas Mavericks’ sure-fire Hall-of-Fame forward took over 16th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list from Los Angeles Lakers legend Jerry West. Nowitzki needed 15 points in the Mavs’ 105-95 win over the Washington Wizards. He got 19, surpassing West with the second of a pair of late third-quarter 3-pointers that also helped Dallas jump back out to an insurmountable double-digit lead.
“He was obviously a little before my time,” Nowitzki said of West. “But I love the history of the game, I watched plenty of games, watched him shoot. He’s really the first guy that had really a pure jump shot like that. He’s the man, he’s clutch. He’s the logo.”
|All-time leading scorers, NBA history|
|Through Tuesday, Nov. 12|
Nowitzki, in his 16th season, now has 25,197 career points. With West’s 25,192 points behind him, Miller’s 25,279 points is reachable likely within the next three to five games. Soon, only 14 players will have scored more points than the big German, and only a handful are safe from Nowitzki’s final charge over the next few seasons.
“It’s another great milestone, but for now, got to keep working and that’s really about it,” said a rather subdued Nowitzki, whose re-tooled Mavs improved to 5-3. “Like I always say, all these milestones are great once my career is over.”
Nowitzki’s jumper, whether a trailing, transition 3 from straightaway or a one-legged leaner from the elbow, is as pure as anyone’s who ever played the game, and no 7-footer comes close. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle did point out one significant difference between the 25,000-plus points West racked up in just 932 games compared to Nowitzki’s total through 1,116 career games.
“Jerry West never shot a 3,” Carlisle said. “If there had been a 3-point line back then, this milestone would have come later — he would need more points. It’s a monumental achievement to pass a player like that. He’s going to pass more big names in the weeks and months to come.”
Miller, a player Carlisle coached near the end of his career in Indiana, certainly took advantage of the 3-ball. So has Kobe Bryant, one of only three active players in the top 16 on the all-time scoring list. Bryant, who has yet to play this season as he recovers from an Achilles tear, is No. 4 with 31,617 career points, just one of five players to reach 30,000 points. Bryant needs 676 points to supplant Michael Jordan at No. 3. Kevin Garnett, now with the Brooklyn Nets, is the other active player at No. 14 with 25,310 points.
Nowitzki is on pace to become the all-time leading scorer among international players. Houston Rockets Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon, a native of Nigeria, leads that group. The Dream sits No. 9 all-time with 26,946 points. Nowitzki can catch him this season if he averages 21.3 points over the next 74 games.
He’s currently averaging 18.3 points on 47.5 percent shooting from the floor and 38.1 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. Nowitzki is in the final year of his contract, but has said he plans to play another two or three seasons, and his intention is to do so with the Mavs.
Seemingly the only thing that can keep Nowitzki, 35, from finishing in the top eight, at least, on the all-time scoring list is health. He’s been extremely durable throughout his career, but has experienced right knee troubles the past few seasons, needing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee prior to last season.
It kept him out of 29 games and he finished the season with his lowest scoring average, 17.3 ppg, since his second season in the league. He snapped a streak of 11 consecutive All-Star Game appearances and Dallas ended a 12-year run of postseason play.
Speaking of health, Tuesday’s game came with a bit of a mysterious twist. Nowitzki played for the first time this season with a sleeve over a previously — as far as anybody knew — problem-free left knee. After the game he was coy about why he wore the sleeve when questioned.
“I’ll be all right. Yeah, I’ll be all right,” Nowitzki said. “We just passed six games in nine days, obviously, and had four in five before this. So you know, it is what it is.”
When asked if the knee was just sore from the arduous schedule, Nowitzki mumbled again that he’ll be all right and quickly glanced in the other direction toward another questioner.
He’ll have a couple days off to get some rest and reflect on all those points since he came into the league as a floppy-headed 20-year-old rookie. The Mavs don’t play again until they hit the road Friday night to face old pal LeBron James and the two-time champion Miami Heat.