Dirk's Top 5: His Greatest Mavs Moments
17 years ago, the Milwaukee Bucks selected Dirk Dirk Nowitzki with the 9th overall pick, and was then traded to the Dallas Mavericks for Robert “Tractor” Traylor, and the rest is history. Dirk is arguably the most beloved athlete in the history of Dallas professional sports, and he has climbed the mountaintop for the Mavericks and for the city of Dallas.
In his time, Dirk is a league MVP, an NBA Finals MVP, a 12-time All-NBA team performer, a 13-time NBA All-Star, and he is seventh on the NBA’s all-time scoring list (Just 450 points behind Shaquille O’Neal). He has provided a championship to starving franchise, as well as quelling the seemingly insurmountable pain caused by the 2006 NBA finals loss to the Miami Heat. Now, Dirk is universally recognized as one of the best players in NBA history, as well as a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer.
Below, we count down the top five performances of Dirk’s storied career with the Mavs, with a couple of honorable mentions:
Honorable Mention: May 12, 2001 vs. San Antonio Spurs
Despite being sick with the flu and getting a tooth knocked out, Dirk put on a Jordan–esque performance, scoring 30 points and pulling down 15 boards in route to a playoff win. The Mavs would ultimately fall to the Spurs four games to one however, despite Dirk’s Game 4 performance.
Honorable Mention: November 3, 2009 vs. Utah Jazz
Dirk scored 40 points; including 29 in the fourth quarter en route to a comeback win over the Jazz. Dirk set a franchise record for points in a quarter, and also managed to pull down 11 boards in the process.
Honorable Mention: December 2, 2004 vs. Houston Rockets
This was absolute vintage Dirk in its purest form, and very difficult to leave out of our top five. On this night, he poured in a still career high 53 points en route to 113-106 overtime win over the Houston Rockets. Dirk took T-Mac and Yao Ming to the cleaners in one of the greatest performances of his career.
Dirk was 15-32 from the field and 21-22 from the free-throw line. He also pulled down 16 boards and had four blocks and three steals. Statistically, you will not find a better game for the Big German. (See it here).
Now the countdown ...
5. June 1, 2006 Western Conference Finals Game 5 vs. Phoenix Suns
The 2006 Phoenix Suns were one of the scariest teams to play against in the 2000’s. They had tough gritty defenders such as Shawn Marion and Raja Bell, and the best point guard in the league in Steve Nash. With Amare Stoudemire out with an injury, Dirk would take advantage in front of a raucous crowd at the AAC, pouring in 50 points on the way to a 117-101 victory.
Nowitzki was 14 for 26 from the field as well as 17 for 18 from the charity stripe, and also pulled down 12 boards in the victory. The win gave Dallas a 3-2 series lead over Phoenix, and the momentum heading into game six, which the Mavs would ultimately win 102-93.
4. May 23, 2011 Western Conference Finals Game 4 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Next on our list is one that could easily be argued should have been ranked higher, however because this list is purely subjective, we’ll just leave it here.
Already up two games to one over the youthful and determined Oklahoma City squad, Dirk and the Mavs fell behind early. Kevin Durant came out firing scoring 29 points and grabbing 15 rebounds, while Russell Westbrook added 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
Nowitzki however, would not let the Mavs falter leading a furious 15-point fourth-quarter comeback with only five minutes to go in the game. Dirk then tied the game up at the free throw line with 6.4 seconds to go, forcing overtime. In overtime, the Mavs took advantage of the young, inexperienced Thunder squad, outscoring them 11-4 in the extra period. In the end though, it was Dirk who put the Mavs over the top, scoring 40 points and adding five rebounds and three assists in the process.
3. May 17, 2011 Western Conference Finals Game 1 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
The 2011 season was a magical one for Dirk and the Mavs to say the least. On More than one occasion, Dirk put his team on his back and led them to victory in ways that no other NBA superstar could. At the time, the Oklahoma City Thunder was considered the new Darling of the NBA, with budding superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook leading the charge, and James Harden and Serge providing support. Unfortunately for the Thunder, they were not ready for the spotlight, and the veteran Mavs tore them apart.
Dirk was unstoppable, going 12 of 15 from the floor and shooting a perfect 24 of 24 from the free throw line en route to a 48-point performance. Dirk also wrangled in six rebounds and blocked four shots on the night. It could be argued that this game was the first game that truly showed Dallas as legitimate contenders to challenge the NBA’s new evil empire known as the Miami Heat. On this night, Dirk put the word out to LeBron and co that the Mavs were coming for them, and they would not be stopped.
2. May 22, 2006 Western Conference Semifinals Game 7 vs. San Antonio Spurs
For what seemed like eternity, the Mavs were always one step behind the San Antonio Spurs. Every year, catching the Spurs was seemingly just out of reach for Dallas, as they lost playoff series to the Spurs in 2001 and again in 2003. By the time the 2006 Western Conference Finals came around, Dirk and the Mavs were sick of their ‘big brother’ pushing them around, and came out hungry and inspired.
After dropping Game 1 87-85, the Mavs won the next three games, taking a 3-1 series lead back to San Antonio. However, just when it looked like Dallas had gotten the proverbial monkey off their back, the Spurs came roaring back to win the next two games, tying up the series heading into a deciding Game 7.
In Game 7, the Mavs got off to a hot start, taking a commanding 20-point lead. However, back came the Spurs, tying up the game late in the fourth, and tightening their grip on the Mavs championship aspirations. However, just when all seemed lost for Dallas, Dirk took over, hitting the game tying layup and free throw on an and-one foul by Manu. The Mavs would ultimately win the game in overtime, and finally get past the Spurs.
Dirk finished the game with 37 points and 15 boards on 11 of 20 shooting from the floor. Dirk was also 15 of 16 from the line and even had the game-saving block at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime.
1. 2011 NBA Finals vs. Miami Heat
Five years before this series, the Mavs lost a heart-breaking series to the Miami Heat in their first NBA Finals appearance. Five years later, Dallas had a chance at redemption. Led by Dirk through the playoff grind, no one could question whether or not the Mavericks deserved to be in the Finals. Dallas took and upstart Portland Trailblazers squad, eviscerated the Los Angeles Lakers dynasty, and dismantled the anointed Oklahoma City Thunder. Moreover, the Mavs had even received monikers such as “The One and Done Boys” and were underdogs in every series except against Portland. This was a team that no one saw coming, including LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and and the Miami Heat.
In the series, Dirk put this team on his shoulders and was unstoppable, averaging 26 points and 9.7 boards per game, including 41.6 percent shooting from the floor and a clutch 97.8% from the charity stripe. For years, experts outside of the Dallas area labeled The Big German as soft, scared and incapable of winning when it counts. In 2011, he put those naysayers to bed, winning Finals MVP, securing the Mavs first title in franchise history, and securing his legacy as one of the best players in NBA history.
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