Today is Day 41 of the Omer. Yesod sheb’yesod. The ultimate foundation.
Every team yearns for a foundational player. The type of player who can carry an offense over a whole season, while being adequate on defense. The type of player who can make their teammates better and still take over in crunch time. The type of player who can do all of that against the best teams in the most pressure packed moments on the biggest stage. Those players are rare and difficult to find. But when you find one, you have yesod, the foundation.
But on Day 41 of the omer, yesod sheb’yesod, we honor a player who was the ultimate foundation, not only for his team, but for his franchise, and for a generation of European players. Over 21 seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki had one of the twenty best careers of all time. The 14x All-Star was League MVP and led Dallas to the 2011-12 NBA Championship.
While he slowed considerably in his final seasons, the 1998 #9 draft pick out of Germany averaged 20.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.4 assists over his career on 47.1/38.0/87.9% shooting. At 7 ft tall, Dirk is the greatest shooting big man of all time and one of the greatest power forwards ever. He could score from anywhere on the court against anyone in a variety of ways. Lebron James once called Nowitzki’s one-leg fadeaway, the second most unstoppable move ever after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook.
But Nowitzki was more than the best player on a Dallas team that made the playoffs 15x during his career. He stayed with Dallas for 21 seasons, the longest tenure of any player with one team. He continued to sign below market contracts in his later years, when he might have chased championships or demanded a big payday. Ever humble, Dirk’s self-effacing sense of humor created space for his teammates to grow and thrive.
Down to earth, loyal, a good teammate, highly-skilled, durable, and able to score against everybody – it’s hard to imagine a better fit for Day 41, yesod sheb’yesod, the ultimate foundation. It’s only appropriate the Nowitzki’s final season was the first for Luka Dončić, as one foundational player passed the torch to the next. Nowitzki paved the way for a generation of European players to be respected and in demand in the NBA and Dončić is only the latest and greatest example of the legacy that Dirk leaves behind.
P.s. Special thanks to Robert Pack, who wore Nowitzki’s preferred #14 when the young German arrived in Dallas.
Featured image from Keith Allison via Wikimedia Commons.