Bayern players pay tribute to retiring Dirk Nowitzki
A great of German sport is saying goodbye. After a career spanning 21 years with the Dallas Mavericks, NBA legend Dirk Nowitzki confirmed he will retire on Thursday. On Tuesday night, the Wurzburg native played his final home game for the Mavs and put in one last monumental display with the FC Bayern fan recording a season-high 30 points in a 120-109 win against the Phoenix Suns.
A giant laser show and visits from NBA legends Larry Bird, Detlef Schrempf, Scottie Pippen, Shawn Kemp and Charles Barkley brought the overwhelmed superstar to tears before he took the microphone himself and announced the end of his career on the biggest possible stage. "This was my last home game," the 14-time All-star told the crowd.
Nowitzki's glittering career has been full of success and milestones. In 2011 he led the Mavericks to their first and so far only NBA title, while four years earlier he'd been named the league's Most Valuable Player. Recently, he overtook legend Wilt Chamberlain to move into sixth place on the NBA's list of career scoring leaders. Nowitzki has also been a key figure for Germany down the years, winning bronze at the 2002 FIBA World Cup, silver at the 2005 FIBA European Championship and in 2008 he fulfilled his dream of competing at the Olympic Games in Beijing.
Since the Mavericks have missed out on the NBA playoffs this season, Thursday's game at the San Antonio Spurs will be Nowitzki's final regular season appearance. "I still want to play a bit more and want to enjoy it, but tonight was a great night." Germany's best basketballer now wants to devote his life to wife Jessica and his three children, but also do some other things that he's missed down the years. "Maybe go skiing? I havent done that in over 25 years," the FCB fan said.
In February, the FC Bayern reserves were in Dallas for a training camp and met Nowitzki and former FCB Basketballer Maxi Kleber at a Mavericks game. Captain Nicolas Feldhahn even gifted Nowitzki a Bayern jersey with his number 41. Perhaps the man known as the "German Wunderkind" will find himself visiting the Allianz Arena more often to take in some of the record champions' matches. As a farewell, a number of Bayern players paid tribute to the basketball legend.
"Hello Dirk. What can I say? It's been a fairy-tale career you've had. Congrats on such a great career. All the best for the future. Keep being as friendly as you come across on TV. I'm glad you've had such great success," said goalkeeper Sven Ulreich, who "was even there to watch your greatest moment when you won the NBA finals in Miami."
Thomas Müller also added, "I saw this morning you scored 30 points and the first 10 in a row. You would've heard this a few times but hats off! I always like watching your games. If the Dallas Mavericks have a masters team, I hope they'll be showing those games live soon as well."