Dallas Mavericks fans got a holiday treat which coincidentally coincided with Dirk Nowitzki’s return from knee surgery this past week when the documentary Wurzburg to Worldwide: How Dirk became Dirk debuted this past week on Fox Sports Southwest.
Most Mavs fans know what a great player Dirk is and what he has accomplished: a dozen All-NBA selections, Most Valuable Player for both the NBA and the NBA Finals, NBA Champion and the list goes on. His versatility as an inside and outside scorer, consistency and long history of success in the league are virtually unparalleled.
However, many don’t know how Dirk started – as a lanky teenager in Wurzburg, Germany with unrefined talent that his family and mentors thought made him a longshot to play in the NBA without time and a lot of work.
It surprised everyone then, when Dirk was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks ninth overall by in the 1998 NBA Draft, and was immediately traded to the Mavericks for the late Robert “Tractor” Traylor, one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history. Not initially expecting to go to the NBA so soon, Dirk decided to give it a go.
And Dirk’s first year in the NBA was not a good one—struggling with moving from the equivalent of Division III college to the world’s best players, Dirk shot only 40% from the field and 20% from three point range and was benched during the season by then-coach Don Nelson. He finished the year as a disappointment, averaging just over 8 points per game.
But Dirk is no ordinary player and no ordinary person, as well as having a supportive team behind him. Blessed with tremendous talent and a Larry Bird-like work ethic, Dirk put in the time in the gym to get better and working with his mentor, Holger Geschwinder, things improved dramatically his second year and by year three he was scoring and rebounding around his career averages.
The NBA had not seen a seven footer who could score in the post, hit from downtown and rebound the way Dirk Nowitzki does in addition to being an adept passer and team player. With the purchase of the team by Mark Cuban and the arrival in Dallas of Steve Nash and Michael Finley, the Mavericks were on their way to over a decade of consecutive playoff appearances, two NBA Finals appearances and a championship in addition to Dirk’s individual accolades. After being called “soft” early in his career and unable to win the big one later on, there’s not much to find fault with now.
The show is full of old footage of Dirk as a teen and interviews with his German friends and basketball teammates, his sister Silke, herself an international basketball player who became his manager in 2006 and Geschwinder, who helped mold him into one of the all-time greats.
What many may not know about Dirk is that he is a genuinely nice, unpretentious guy who cares about the fans. In a time of athletes and entertainers who are hardly role models and clearly infatuated with themselves, guys like Dirk are refreshing.
This is a must-see for fans of Dirk and the Mavericks alike but a also for kids and sports fans who can appreciate seeing a humble kid with raw talent become an international superstar and hero through hard work and dedication, qualities Dirk still possesses today and is the major contributing factor to his durability and rapid recovery from knee surgery.
There are many great stories of athletes who are unlikely heroes and this is definitely one of them—a deserving tribute to a great player and a great guy who, thankfully for Mavericks fans, isn’t done yet.
Wurzburg to Worldwide: How Dirk Became Dirk is currently showing at various times on Fox Sports Southwest.