Spending your entire career with the team that drafted you wasn’t rare back in the day, especially for star players who were the faces of an organization for years. But in the modern era of the NBA, we see more and more movement, with numerous stars teaming up and creating a superteam to compete for a championship. One of the last greats to stick it out with their team during their whole career was Dirk Nowitzki.
The 7’0” German superstar spent his entire illustrious 21-year career with the Dallas Mavericks and notched numerous awards, with 14 All-Star appearances, 12 All-NBA nods, one MVP award, and most notably, one Championship and Finals MVP in 2011. For a long time, it was looking like Dirk would be one of those greats who were always close but never managed to win it all. But in 2011, Dirk and his Mavericks had a fantastic playoff run and shocked the world, beating the heavily favorited Miami Heat led by LeBron, Wade, and Bosh.
Even though the championship meant the world to Dirk, he explained he would have been happy with his career even if he didn’t win it:
“For me, I was prepared to live with the fact that I wasn’t going to win a title. One of my big idols is Charles Barkley. I loved him – that’s why actually, in Europe, I had No. 14 because he wore No. 14 in the Olympics in Barcelona. And I never have looked at him lesser because he didn’t win a championship. He just happened to run into Michael Jordan all the time. Of course, that’s always in the back of your mind; you’re thinking, ‘Man, what if? What if I would have done that?‘ But I’m just glad it worked out in Dallas. I really am. And I didn’t have to think about ever leaving this place.”Dirk Nowitzki, ESPN
Loyalty is a lost trait in today’s NBA. Dirk is spot on – Barkley, amongst other greats like Karl Malone, John Stockton, Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller, and many more, are not viewed as any less great players because they didn’t win a ring. Even if Dirk never won it, he would still have been considered one of the best power forwards ever. Nowadays, you can still see some stars like Lilliard and Beal sticking it out with their original team even though they aren’t on top-tier teams. Hopefully, they stay loyal and get rewarded for it, just like Dirk did.