NBA History: 50 best NBA players of the 21st century

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Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki, AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTON /

player. 79. . PF. Dallas Mavericks. Dirk Nowitzki. 8

50 greatest NBA players from 21st century: 8. Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki spent his entire two-decade career in Dallas. The lanky German turned his patented fall-away jumper into one of the most recognizable moves in basketball. Ahead of his time in many ways, Nowitzki helped usher in the era of the stretch big. His offensive versatility was not only rare and exciting but virtually impossible for mid-2000 defenses to stop.

In his prime, Nowitzki was a mobile face-up threat and prolific 3-point shooter who ranks among the greatest deep threats in NBA history. He appeared in 14 All-Star games and was named to 12 All-NBA teams. He won his lone MVP in 2007, and the year prior in 2006, led Dallas to the Finals where they lost to Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, and the Miami Heat. He would avenge that loss in 2011, winning his first (and only) ring while ousting the favorited LeBron-led Heat. He won Finals MVP, to boot.

When he got going, there was little anyone could do to stop Nowitzki. A true 7-footer with a sky-high release point, his jumper was hardly affected by the average defender’s contest. When the pressure was tighter than normal, he simply went to his fadeaway. Nowitzki’s ability to score from any angle and from any range, at his size, made for stirring offensive showcases.

Virtually no player is as synonymous with a franchise as Nowitzki is with Dallas. There’s Iverson in Philadelphia, Kobe in LA, and Duncan in San Antonio, but the list consists of precious few names. Dirk spent over two decades — 21 years! — with a single franchise, and was consistently great until the very end. He revolutionized the way we perceive big men and their roles and gathered plenty of personal accolades along the way.