No matter who you are, there’s someone that leaves you speechless when you meet them. You idolize someone your entire life and then are in a position to compete against them. Do you elbow them or ask for a photo after the game? For professional athletes, that meeting sometimes happens in front of 20.000 people.
When I came over at age 20, I think my 3rd NBA game was against Scottie Pippen. I was like [WOW], that was a hammer feeling. You’re standing on the court playing against them; I couldn’t believe it at first.Dirk Nowitzki, Youtube
You could be a McDonald’s All-American, a five-star recruit, and a no.1 draft pick, destined for the NBA since you were a kid, and your first NBA game is still overwhelming. If you’re a kid from Würzburg playing in the Second Bundesliga, South Division, the closest you expect to Pippen is on a poster on your bedroom wall.
You have to lose the respect eventually. That was difficult in my first year, all the posters I had all over my bedroom, suddenly I was playing against them. That was crazy.Dirk Nowitzki, Youtube
Unfortunately for Dirk, his encounters with Scottie were not what he hoped for. Shaq famously made up the story of David Robinson refusing to sign an autograph the first time he met him to motivate himself against his hero. Either Dirk was doing the same thing, or Pippen did something to leave a bad impression.
I was totally disappointed because Scottie Pippen was my idol – that’s an arrogant ass beyond belief.Dirk Nowitzki, Youtube
Nowitzki didn’t go into detail, but it seems Pippen did something that ruined his standing with The Dunking Deutschman. A lot of European players take some time to adjust to the level of trash talking and competitiveness in the NBA. Maybe it was just that.
The thing is, Pippen is universally beloved among former teammates. Anyone who spends some time with the guy loves him. Sure, it’s not hard being popular next to MJ, but it was more than that.
My money is on Dirk thinking differently today.