His team may be out of the NBA playoffs, but the fact remains that Dirk Nowitzki -- power forward for the Dallas Mavericks -- is one of the most talented and overpowering players of this generation. Yet his complete unselfishness and overall niceness has gotten in the way of him being recognized as one of the all-time greats. It's clear that Dirk has the ability to make basically any shot over basically anyone from basically anywhere on the court, but he's so dedicated to getting everyone involved that he doesn't always stuff the stat sheet like he's clearly capable of doing. He's almost the NBA's version of the guy who was too nice for his own good in high school. Everyone's perfectly aware of what a great guy he is, but did you see LeBron dunk over that 5'3" guy? All the girls, and fans, will go after the guy in the leather coat with the motorcycle in the end and that's just the way things are. Dirk finally got his big payoff last year, thanks to a belated birthday present from LeBron, but that may not be enough to change his legacy.
Dirk's undoubtedly up there in the ranks of Bird, Lambier, Parish and Garnett in terms of great shooting big men, and I would personally think he's the best shooter ever at Power Forward, and his height clearly makes him capable of putting up 40 every night. Dirk is truly one of those few elite players who are simply not guard-able. He, Kobe and LeBron are the three players from this generation who truly are so much better than everyone on the floor that there's not a whole lot you can do. I rooted for him and the Mavericks in 2011, because who couldn't when they essentially got to play the Antichrist of national TV? My jaw just hit the floor every time he simply shot over someone with that transcendent arc of his. And when I watch him play against the Lakers I curse under my breath the whole time. In his most recent game, he didn't shoot extremely well, but when it mattered, he swished that shots that made it clear they may as well put a mannequin in front of him. Some people like to compare him to Pau, but that's a joke. Pau is a good shooter for a wimpy forward; Dirk is an unbelievable shooter by any standard. So why doesn't he just jump and swish the public into his mercy?
Dirk has been an All-Star for 11 straight years, won one MVP award and one won title, but who are fans going to remember from the 2000′s in 30 years? My guess would be LeBron, Kobe, Wade, Durant, Rose, Pierce, Garnett, Allen, Shaq and maybe even Nash and Carmelo will be remembered more than Dirk. Part of it is Dirk's complete lack of personal branding. Regardless of how you feel about LeBron, it's clear he's made a name for himself with ads and press. Same with Kobe, Wade, and the poster boy of self-branding before LeBron came along, Shaq. Pierce, Garnett, and Allen will be remembered, but not because of the way LeBron and co. have done it. Anyone playing for franchises like the Celtics and Lakers get a much easier time to stardom, especially when you get three premier players of the generation on the same legendary franchise. Durant and Rose will make names for themselves sand by leading an exciting and young team to an eventual championship and multiple MVP's mixed with some subtle branding. And how exactly will Dirk be remembered? Awkward foreigner who led a bunch of ringless vets to a ring over LeBrondown 2011? I assure you LeBron's complete meltdown in 2011 will be remembered more than who actually won. And his MVP in 2007, where he didn't lead in any major categories, his team had an embarrassing title lost, and Kobe averaged 31 points a game and was considered slighted! None of this is to take away from Dirk, but this is how it will all be written down.
So what can Nowitzki do at this point? Really not a whole lot. If Nash had never left for the Suns then this wouldn't have been a problem. With Nash and Nowitzki at the primes of their career in the mid-late 2000′s (the two won back-to-back-to-back MVPs) who knows what kind of damage they would've done. They would've been the opposite of the boring and un-athletic Mavericks of that time, they would've been quick, pushing the tempo and perennial contenders. These are the formative years for a player's legacy, right before they become veterans and right after they've matured to the point where they want rings more than anything else. And maybe he could've helped his legacy if the Mavericks had made a deep or interesting run into the playoffs instead of being swept by a far and away more athletic team. But instead, owner Mark Cuban threw away all chances of competing this year for the slim to none chance to court Deron Williams and/or Dwight Howard for the next season. So let's appreciate Dirk for who he is and was while we can, and hope that the basketball gods smile upon him while he still has a chance to prove his might.