By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Dirk Nowitzki, with a patented fallaway jumper from a few feet off the right elbow, surpassed Oscar Robertson as the NBA’s 10th-all-time leading scorer.
Nowitzki, 35, joins the most exclusive of NBA clubs in which each member is recognized simply by first name or nickname. Dirk, the Dallas Mavericks’ sweet-shooting 7-footer and an original stretch-4, certainly has that covered.
“Amazing, amazing. I mean top 10 is unreal,” Nowitzki said following the 95-83 victory at Utah. “It’s been a crazy ride. Passing Big O, who obviously averaged triple-doubles numerous seasons, is unbelievable. It feels surreal still. All night I wasn’t really trying to think about it, I was trying to concentrate on the next shot. I knew how many points I needed, but I wasn’t really trying to think about it. I was trying to think about the next shot and how I could get open.”
Nowitzki, the 2007 regular-season MVP and 2011 champion and Finals MVP, now has 26,714 career points. He has also surpassed 30,000 total points that includes 128 postseason games.
NBA’s All-Time Top 10 Scorers
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 38,387
2. Karl Malone, 36,928
3. Michael Jordan, 32,292
4. Kobe Bryant, 31,700
5. Wilt Chamberlain, 31,419
6. Shaquille O’Neal, 28,596
7. Moses Malone, 27,409
8. Elvin Hayes, 27,313
9. Hakeem Olajuwon, 26,946
10. Dirk Nowitzki, 26,714
Nowitzki finished Tuesday night’s crucial 95-83 victory at Utah with a game-high 21 points on 9-for-11 shooting, including 2-for-3 from beyond the arc. He scored 13 points in the first half and moved past Robertson to open the fourth quarter off a pass from Devin Harris.
Fresh off being named the Western Conference’s Player of the Week, a four-game stretch in which he averaged 25.3 ppg, Nowitzki has propelled Dallas to a 4-0 road trip that has it in the driver’s seat to secure one of the final two playoff spots.
The Mavs (48-31) have three games left. They play San Antonio at home on Thursday and then finish with critical games against Phoenix at home on Saturday and then at Memphis on Wednesday.
Nowitzki, who struggled to regain his All-Star form last season after undergoing knee surgery during training camp, was devastated when the Mavs missed the playoffs for the first time since 1999-2000.
He started this season, his 16th, at No. 17 on the league’s all-time scoring list. Along the way he’s moved ahead of Jerry West, Reggie Miller, Alex English, Kevin Garnett, John Havlicek, Dominique Wilkins and now the Big O.
Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant, No. 4 on the all-time list with 31,700 points, 592 behind No. 3 Michael Jordan are the only active players in the top 10.
This is Nowitzki’s final year of his contract, but he has made it clear that he plans to re-sign with the Mavericks for another two or three seasons.
“This is my 30th year in the NBA and one of the few times I’ve truly been in awe of an accomplishment,” said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, who has been with Nowitzki since the start of the 2008-09 season. “Top 10 all-time scorer is an unbelievable accomplishment because it’s a level of excellence that’s beyond belief, and then it’s being able to do it over an extended period of time with consistency. So one of the really unique accomplishments.
“And he’s going to keep eating up more people. He’s got a long way to go.”
By this time next season, Nowitzki very well could be the No. 7 all-time scorer in league history. It won’t take him long to track down No. 9 Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946), then No. 8 Elvin Hayes (27,313) and No. 7 Moses Malone (27,409). It might take into the 2015-16 season for Nowitzki to catch No. 6 Shaquille O’Neal, now 1,882 points ahead of Nowitzki.
If he ultimately moves ahead of Shaq, Nowitzki will nestle in nicely, likely for good, behind No. 5 Wilt Chamberlain (31,419).
Not bad for the one-time floppy-haired kid imported from Wurzburg, Germany.
“Like I always say, I think this stuff means more to me when my career is over,” Nowitzki said. “But this is a sweet one. Top 10 is definitely unbelievable.”