Former Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki has earned plenty of well-deserved praise as he nears his Hall of Fame induction, which will take place on Saturday. Soccer star Toni Kroos believes his fellow countryman is the greatest German athlete in history, according to Marc Stein at Substack, who also writes a long list of his memories after covering Nowitzki’s career over the past 25 years.
“For me,” said the Real Madrid midfield ace, “Dirk is above anybody.”
As Stein observes, Germany has had a number of incredible athletes, including former tennis stars Steffi Graf and Boris Becker, ex-Formula One driver Michael Schumacher, former soccer player Franz Beckenbauer, and Kroos himself. Yet Nowitzki stands alone for Kroos, not only for his accomplishments on the court, but for the way he carried himself off it.
“At this point we don’t need to talk about his quality as a basketball player,” Kroos told Stein. “To be on this level for so many years, to achieve what he achieved and to make the money he made throughout his career and then to stay the same down-to-Earth guy is what really matters. My feeling is that, little by little, we are losing these Dirk Nowitzkis and Roger Federers. We need more Dirks in this world.”
Tim Cato of The Athletic passes along his own memories of Nowitzki’s career, as well as excerpts from fellow writers touching on the big man’s impact on Dallas and the people around him.
Here are more notes ahead of tomorrow’s enshrinement:
- Pau Gasol is among the star-studded class that will be inducted. He recently gave an exclusive interview to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times that covered a number of topics, including his time with the Lakers, his relationship with Kobe Bryant, and what being a Hall-of-Famer means to him.
- At a news conference on Friday, the Spanish big man touched on how special it was to be inducted with fellow Europeans Nowitzki and Tony Parker (France). “This class is an incredible accomplishment for European basketball and for international basketball as well,” Gasol said, per Eurohoops.net. “The game has grown so much since we first started playing in the NBA. We can be very proud of having taken the international game to a higher level and very proud of seeing how current players are taking it to the next level. It’s very special to share this moment with Dirk and Tony. It’s remarkable, something that was unthinkable not too long ago. It’s beautiful to share the message that things are possible, things do change and improve, things are exciting, and allow any kid, boy or girl, to dream that they can do it too. That’s the exciting part for me.”
- Parker will be the first Frenchman inducted into the Hall of Fame, and he’ll be joined by several people connected to the Spurs, including his former teammate Gasol, his ex-head coach Gregg Popovich, and former assistant coach Becky Hammon. That was one of the topics he discussed in a lengthy interview with Marc J. Spears of Andscape. “That’s crazy,” Parker said. “I don’t even know if it happened in the history of the Hall of Fame that the player is going the same year as his coach. It’s pretty cool. And the whole process is pretty cool because Pau, I played against him since I’m 14 years old and played together at the Spurs. Dirk, a huge Texas rivalry and I went to his jersey retirement. Becky Hammon, people don’t know that a lot, but she’s like my big sister. We [are] very, very close friends. And we were in San Antonio together and spent a lot of time together. Coach Pop was my coach. There’s a lot of connections in that class that makes it very special for me.” Parker also recently sat down for an exclusive interview with ESPN’s Malika Andrews (YouTube link).
- On Friday, Popovich said Parker’s first workout with the Spurs went so poorly the team almost didn’t draft him, but the guard’s agent convinced San Antonio to give him another shot, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “I hated him,” Popovich said. “I said I don’t want him. He’s a weenie. He’s unaggressive. He doesn’t like contact, he’s 19, and I don’t want to see him.” However, Parker “kicked ass” at his second workout. “The rest,” Popovich said, “is history.”
- Ahead of his enshrinement, Heat legend Dwyane Wade answered 16 questions posed by Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald, and discussed his post-NBA success with Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.