This is an article from the June 6, 2011 issue
The Mavericks forward is averaging 28.4 points per game and shooting 51% from three-point range in the playoffs entering the Finals.
Dan Patrick:Do you need a championship to validate your place among the greatest players of all time?
Dirk Nowitzki: I don't really see myself as one of the greats of all time.
DP:Your coach, Rick Carlisle, said you were in the top 10.
DN: In his top 10 there are like nine Celtics, and I'm the only non-Celtic. That whole top 10 ... you can throw that out the window. I don't know what he was taking that morning.
DP:What would an NBA title mean to you?
DN: We came so close five years ago. [The Heat] came back and beat us. It [would be] in the back of my mind for the rest of my life if I had never gotten another chance. I don't really care what it would mean to my legacy. It just means so much to me to get this chance again.
DP:When was the last time you watched the 2006 NBA Finals?
DN: I never went back to watch those games. I think I'd be so sick to my stomach. Five years ago seems like a long time, but some of the stuff is still fresh in my mind.
DP:Is it possible to stop you one-on-one?
DN: I feel like I have the experience where I can get to my spots and shoot over people. Sometimes it's not about one-on-one. It's what the other team does with schemes. Oklahoma City started to flood the strong side. Miami guarded me pretty well in the '06 Finals. You have to think they're going to throw some stuff out there and see what works. I still have to be in attack mode.
DP:Why are European players labeled soft?
DN: Basketball is a little different over there. [Where] we grew up, it wasn't just all "iso" ball and one-on-one on the low block. It was a movement game. The fours and fives had to step out and pick-and-pop. That's just so different from what's taught over here. When you come over and you're seven feet and you like to shoot jumpers, then you get the label of soft.
DP:If you had come over to America earlier, how different would your game be now?
DN: I was debating coming to high school [in America]. Detlef Schrempf did it. I was 16. I was moving pretty well. I figured once I went to high school, they were going to make me a back-to-the-basket-type player. That's not what I wanted, and that's not where I saw my future. Looking back now, it was a smart decision. Back then it was pretty hard.
DP:Where would you have gone to college?
DN: I visited Kentucky, which I really liked. I visited Stanford and Cal. Kansas canceled on me at the last minute. Overall I had 36 college offers. I'm sure college would have been great too.
DP:Can you clear this up: How do you pronounce your last name?
DN: We actually say no-VIT-zki with a hard v. Everybody around here seems to say no-WIT-zki. It really doesn't matter. I've heard basically every version over the last 13 years.
DP:Can you trash-talk in German?
DN:Mach dich frisch alter du bist doch viel zu langsam.
DP:That's go time. What does it mean?
DN: "You're too little, and too slow, and it's on."
THE FINE PRINT: The NFL gave Jerry Jones special permission to attend Tony Romo's wedding. And a district judge lifted the stay on giving him a cappuccino maker.
Assistant coach Brian Shaw seemed like the logical candidate to take over the Lakers. Shaw studied under Phil Jackson and was endorsed by Kobe Bryant. G.M. Mitch Kupchak explained why they selected Mike Brown instead. "It's not that we chose not to hire Brian because he's not qualified," Kupchak told me. "Our feeling going into it was that we needed a new voice. The old staff had been with us for 11 years." Kupchak said the front office did not consult Bryant before hiring Brown.
USC athletic director Pat Haden wants to move forward now that the NCAA has denied an appeal to reduce sanctions against the football program. But Haden thinks the sport needs to evaluate how players are compensated. "We have guys who are hungry," said Haden, who has been reviewing players' scholarships and stipends. "Literally, hungry. I don't think it's right. I think we ought to be paying these guys more."
Line of the week
Jim Miller, co-author of Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, on whether he and I would ever be invited back to ESPN: "I think they'd have us both to the café. [But] we wouldn't be able to eat."
Now Hear This
Listen to the podcasts at danpatrick.com
1. Hines Ward explains how he won Dancing with the Stars.
2. Justin Timberlake talks about his admiration for LeBron James.