Dirk Nowitzki is an NBA champion, Finals MVP, regular-season MVP, 14x All-Star, 4x All-NBA first team, 5x All-NBA second team. He scored 31,560 points, had 11,489 rebounds, and dished out 3,651 assists in his career. Dirk did all this playing a record-setting 21 seasons with the same team. That makes this statement from Jerry West very bold.
“I've been around a long time, and I've seen a lot of special players... There's a difference between All-Stars & superstars. A superstar is different, and that's what he is... He'll be the best player that Dallas has ever had. I have great respect for Nowitzki, but Dirk is not him”
Jerry West on Luka Dončić, via Dallas Morning News
"He" in this quote is, of course, Luka Dončić. Just saying that Luka will have a better career than Dirk overall is a very high bar to set. But to say he will be the best player Dallas has ever had is a whole different level. Players today play the game of short contracts, value flexibility, and have no patience. Just look at Trae Young, already growing frustrated in Atlanta. It is hard to imagine any young star or superstar player being an NBA lifer the way Dirk or Kobe were.
But, if anyone has the authority to make such a statement, it's Jerry West. The Logo saw a teenage Kobe in a workout, shut it down, and did whatever it took to get the kid to the Lakers. As an advisor with the Warriors, he threatened to resign if they traded Klay Thompson for Kevin Love, a very polarizing topic at the time. Through his career, Jerry West was not only willing to make bold statements but put his money where his mouth is.
West played next to Wilt Chamberlain, coached Kareem, and was the GM for Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal. A front office advisor for the Warriors during the Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant era. He is now with the Clippers and helped them get Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. More or less, Jerry West spent over 40 years around greatness. There is no-one better suited to recognize an NBA superstar.
Barring injuries (knock on wood), Luka will have a spectacular career. If he wants to be the greatest Maverick ever, Luka would not only have to achieve all or more than Dirk did in terms of rings and stats, but he would need to do it all with Dallas over more than two decades. Let's revisit this in 2040.