"With the 6th overall pick, the Dallas Mavericks select Robert Traylor." Words by commissioner David Stern that changed the Mavericks franchise forever. Don Nelson the coach, and GM of the Mavericks had a knack for making trades, and this one may be the best one he ever did. In a three-team trade on draft day, he effectively traded the 6th pick to Milwaukee for their 9th draft pick and Steve Nash. The 9th pick? Dirk Werner Nowitzki.
This was in 1998. To remind you of how far we're talking about, Bill Clinton was denying "sexual relations" with Monika Lewinsky, Bruce Willis was blowing up asteroids in space, Jack decided not to float on a wooden board and followed Titanic to the bottom of the ocean, a company was founded in Menlo Park, California by the name of Google, and the FDA approved Viagra.
Dirk Nowitzki arrived in Dallas to start his NBA journey and at that time a career that would last over two decades seemed crazy. If you had said not only he would play for 21 seasons but that he would do it with the same team, that would be impossible. I mean, that's record-breaking stuff — tonight that is exactly what will happen.
Mavs announced Dirk would play tonight against the Phoenix Suns, and by doing so, break Kobe Bryant's record of a player playing so long for a single franchise. It is indeed a rare feat to see such a fantastic player stay with a single organization for such a long period. Dirk's love of Dallas and the Mavs have been documented for a long time, and with this record, Dirk will cement his place as the best in Dallas history.
Nowitzki is far from his peak and is aware that he will get sparse bench minutes. His last NBA game was the end of March, so a 41-year-old in his 21st season after an ankle surgery will need to manage his minutes. Dirk is with the team to have his last run in the league and pass the torch to another European player who very well may compete with his legacy when all is done.
To put the magnitude of Dirk's achievement into perspective, if Luka were to do so, he would have to play for the Mavericks until 2040. Just try to do some quick math, how old will you be then?
P.S. This is an excellent opportunity to remind ourselves not to judge rookies too soon. Dirk's class included NBA greats such as Vince Carter and Paul Pierce. The first three picks in that draft? Michael Olowokandi, Mike Bibby and Raef LaFrentz.