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Dirk has earned my respect

Discussion in 'NBA Dish' started by m0lson, Jun 8, 2011.

  1. A_3PO

    A_3PO Member

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    I was going to mention Manu hitting the shot to put the Spurs up 3 and then committing that foul, but wanted to keep the post short. Remember in game 3 when Manu lost control and kicked the ball into the backcourt on the inbounds play? If he hadn't botched both of those, the Spurs might have one more championship.
     
  2. AroundTheWorld

    AroundTheWorld Insufferable 98er
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    [​IMG]

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010
    Updated: January 13, 4:24 PM ET
    Love hurts
    By Allison Glock
    ESPN The Magazine

    This column appears in the January 25 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

    Dirk Nowitzki's track pants are riding a little high as he works the court at Mavs practice, his socks in clear view, unruly Keith Urban hair held fast by the sweatband haloing his forehead -- traces of his Euro roots, even now, a dozen years into the NBA. He playfully trash-talks with teammates, running a joke into the ground, as is his habit. The clowning interferes little with his focus. He nails his shots, every basket low-hanging fruit, grinning as the net snaps. "Oh, yeah," he booms in his deep baritone, wide smile showing rabbity teeth.


    Rick Carlisle watches the face of his franchise race around, chasing stray balls, a Labrador let loose. "Dirk lives the game," the coach says, nodding in approval. "Since age 13, everything he does in his life is and has been geared toward being the best basketball player he can be. And the thing that you love about Dirk is that he loves living that life." The "life" Carlisle refers to does not involve diamond-encrusted stereo speakers, salacious cocktail waitresses or painkiller addictions that conveniently explain a proclivity for diamond encrusting and cocktail waitresses. No, the life for Nowitzki -- All-Star, NBA MVP, future Hall of Famer -- is and has always been only about basketball. "He's not flashy," says Mavs head trainer Casey Smith. "He's not conspicuously spending money. Or hanging with high-profile friends. He's not after every dollar he can get. It isn't interesting to him."

    As such, Nowitzki has no slick agent or publicist, no signature fragrance or designer-jeans line. He has very few endorsements -- almost all in Germany -- not because he can't get offers but because he chooses to stop short of making himself a brand. He isn't selling anything but game, and a fairly vanilla game at that. "I'm not going to jump over two guys and dunk it or stare or muscle you down," he says of his style, which is quiet, quick and coolly efficient. Even a recent collision with the grill of Houston's Carl Landry, which resulted in five busted teeth for Landry and three stitches for Nowitzki, was more about what typically happens when elbow meets enamel than any badassery.

    [​IMG]

    Nowitzki is old-school, a workhorse. He does drills, push-ups on fingertips, late-night shooting practice. And his commute is always the same. Drive directly to the arena, then back home, a well-worn groove of enthusiastic compliance. He avoids red meat and dairy. He does not drink or smoke or invite girls up to his hotel room. He has no swag. For the most part, his idea of fun is to stay home and read. Or watch basketball. (He does insist that he raps -- in German -- and dances; "I'm good," he says, an assertion teammates dismiss with eye rolls.) He is the Taylor Swift of the NBA. Which is why it was all the more startling when, last May, the media released a mug shot of Nowitzki's then-fiancée, Cristal Taylor, along with a report that the woman was a small-time con artist with a history of seducing wealthy men. She was wanted in two states. Nowitzki, it turns out, was a target. "I usually do a good job of keeping my private life out of the media," Nowitzki says with clear lament.

    It's postpractice in December, and he is in the Mavs' headquarters, perched at a small table just feet from Mark Cuban's office. He says his failure to recognize that Taylor had been playing him is one of his greatest regrets, right up there with watching the 2006 Finals slip away. "Mistakes are normal," he says, grimacing. "You have to learn from them and move on. We're all human, you know?" Nowitzki shrugs, looks away. He is not used to being human. More to the point, he is not used to being seen.

    A driver for Hotel ZaZa, the Dallas glitterati hangout, sums him up: "I know all the players. But Dirk? Him I never see. Maybe once he's come out."

    Nowitzki prefers to stay hidden, keep everyone focused on his game. Off the court, he takes the brilliant tack of appearing uninteresting, which he is decidedly not. (How many NBA players teach themselves guitar or read Joseph Conrad?) At press conferences he drops his voice, tape recorders shoved beard-close. He avoids eye contact, says little. Dull by design, he has no interest in being the color in the commentary. "He's a character. He's funny," says teammate Jason Kidd. "He can laugh at himself. But unless you're in the inner circle, you'll never see that side."

    "I can't just say, 'Hey, I wish I hadn't done that,' because then I'd be a different person now."

    This deliberate obfuscation worked beautifully for years, worked like magic until last spring, when his private choices became very public, his frailties exposed, trotted out for all to see like Britney's baldness, this Goliath leveled by love. "Sometimes you can get yourself into trouble because your world is so small," surmises Dave Shore, a Mavs radio and TV reporter from 2001 to 2007. "Being taken by that woman? That is one of those things that will never happen again. It was an innocent mistake. Dirk is not a guy hitting the clubs. He isn't Tiger."

    He is, in fact, the anti-Tiger. He desires a wife, not a mistress (or 20). Nowitzki is not a liar, cheat or fraud. He is who he is. A family-man-in-waiting who wants to settle down. He didn't play the field, opting to put all his eggs in the Cristal Taylor basket, something he did for the oldest reason in the book: his heart told him to. The two met when she called his house -- an innocent misdialing Taylor says. The chat led to a friendship, then, after a year, to more. Taylor was patient, persistent. And so, when Nowitzki became besotted, he proposed.

    In Nowitzki's NBA life, teammates have his back. Off court, Holger Geschwindner pulls the strings. A fixture in Nowitzki's life since he was 16, Geschwindner, who lives in Würzburg but visits a couple of times each season, is part father figure, part Svengali. Although Nowitzki was already on a local club squad, Geschwindner, captain of the 1972 Olympic team, saw a potential no one else did. With Nowitzki's parents' permission, Geschwindner trained him Mr. Miyagi-style, and has managed his life since, theirs being what Carlisle calls "an unconventional" if fruitful relationship. So when Geschwindner, 64, learned that his charge had popped the question, the mentor popped a few of his own. His background check revealed some bad business, a woman with a past, a record, aliases. She had lied to Nowitzki. Made him a fool.

    "There were some people who had concerns about Cristal," says Chuck Cooperstein, the Mavs' radio play-by-play guy. "But Dirk was in love. Who was going to tell him?" Geschwindner, that's who. He showed him the evidence, evidence that led to hard time for Taylor. He broke the boy's heart, for his own good. Emotions are a sign of weakness, Geschwindner believes. Read Nietzsche, he tells Dirk.

    Soon after being outed as a fraud, Taylor claimed from jail that she was pregnant, a last-ditch effort that also turned out to be a lie but created even more heartache for Nowitzki, who craves a wedding ring almost as much as a championship one. "I have wanted a wife and kids for some time," he says, aimlessly picking lint from his shirt. He thought he'd found one, a woman who loved him for him. "Dirk definitely came into the league as a naive kid from a small town," says former teammate Steve Nash. "Part of that never left him. I always wished he would date more to open up a little and experience life more."

    But Nowitzki, who lets no one inside, decided if not Taylor, who? "I can't just say, 'Hey, I wish I hadn't done that,' because then I'd be a different person now," he says. He is trying to see the upside, the personal growth. It is, even for a man of his size, a reach. "If I don't talk about it, I don't have to think about it," he says, smiling. "I'm one of those."


    Last spring, Nowitzki retreated to Germany, to his birthplace of Würzburg, a scenic, Savannah, Ga.-size town known for its medieval churches and dry white wine. "I didn't touch a basketball for nine weeks," he marvels, shaking his head. "The longest time in my life." He needed the break, needed, he says, to lay everything out for his family, an exercise as necessary (thanks to global media reports) as it was excruciating, even though, he says, "it did end up being a bonding experience for us." Volunteering his emotions, sharing his shame, these therapeutic exercises came as easily to Nowitzki as a self-administered bris would have. "I had to spill my whole heart out. Which had never happened before," he says, tugging at his hoodie.

    Silke, his sister, says Dirk has always been painfully shy, a boy who'd only watch before joining the game. "He didn't confide in anyone -- about crushes on girls or feeling low, about anything. He tries to solve his problems himself." Told that opening up may be healthy for his relationship with his family, Nowitzki rakes his hand through his hair, shrugs. "Maybe I needed it. I don't know. They are a big part of why I am doing so much better now."

    He laughs, a throaty guffaw. "Right?"

    It is pregame, Atlanta at Dallas, and Nowitzki warms up with an open-mouth smile. His shoulders cinch a little around his ears, but for the most part he is relaxed, silly even, intentionally bumping into TV reporters, doing a spontaneous pratfall shtick. He lip-synchs to the blaring music, shakes his hips as he shoots threes. He wears his seven feet well, not like some tall men who curve into themselves like wood shavings.

    He gets fouled late in the first. At the line he fidgets, his mouth guard worked like a piece of jerky, popping free more than once and hitting the floor. It's said that he hums David Hasselhoff's "Looking for Freedom" when he's at the line. Whatever works. "Honestly," he says, "what I play for now is a championship. I don't care about stats."

    He still thinks about accepting league MVP honors in 2007 two weeks after being ousted by the Warriors in the playoffs, the only time the NBA has seen a 1 seed fall to an 8 seed in a best-of-seven series. That's better than being a Mavs fan in the '90s. In 1998, when Dallas swapped its first-round selection Robert "Tractor" Traylor to Milwaukee for fellow picks Nowitzki and Pat Garrity, the team was ending a decade of doom. Two seasons later, Nowitzki was averaging more than 20 a night; the Mavs have been a playoff team, and Dirk has been revered, ever since.

    So, after the baby mama drama, Mavs fans rallied to Nowitzki's defense. His bad judgment was forgiven, the main smackdown being that Taylor wasn't a looker. "Dallas is very protective of Dirk," says Carlisle. "He's beloved here, and he's earned every ounce of love and respect that he gets." Unlike Tony Romo's, Nowitzki's head is never on a platter, even amid playoff exits, an uncharacteristic largesse Nowitzki has himself marveled at and attributes to his "I don't know, being a nice guy?" More likely because "he built this stadium," says Kidd. "He laid it brick by brick. He saved the franchise."

    And he did it with humility, a quality so rare in pro sports today you do a double take when you hear about the time the Mavs arrived at a hotel at 2 a.m. and Nowitzki unloaded everybody's bags. When told that teammates and coaches describe him as tough, Nowitzki laughs. "Me and tough in the same sentence? Ha. You don't hear that much." Then he references his age, something he will do roughly 13 times in the next two hours. "Once you hit 30, it's like, I'm no spring chicken anymore."

    There are worse things.

    "Like what?"

    Hitting 40.

    "Yes. That is worse."

    His gaze drifts as he contemplates his older self. "I'm 31 now. I have a couple of more years. I want a family, for sure. That whole thing in May didn't drive me off. I still want a wife, kids. I don't know. I don't think I can walk away from basketball entirely. Besides," he grins wryly, "it's a little late for me to get picked up by a boy band."

    Back at the Mavs' facility, Nowitzki is recalling his athletic beginnings. As a child, he played tennis and team handball. Dad was the school handball coach, a former champ who took his son's nascent interest in hoops as a smack in the face. "When I told him I wanted to quit handball to play basketball, he said, 'Are you insane?'" Nowitzki says. "He hated basketball. My mom and sister played. He was basically saying, You can't play this girly sport."

    Nowitzki says he was never great at anything except basketball, but that his decision was partially fueled by being teased. "Kids are pretty cruel," he says flatly. "In fourth grade I was taller than the teacher. I was from a smaller town so it was hard to find clothes. I'd be running around in the same shoes for years." On court, the teasing stopped. At 13, he joined the junior national team, and with travel came enlightenment. "My schoolmates hadn't even left the town. I was all over Europe." Nowitzki decided he was bigger than Würzburg. "If I hadn't played? I think I'd still be there."

    I ask Nowitzki when he became a man. "I don't know. Am I a man?" he asks, head tilted. "I sometimes think I am still a little kid." He pauses, tosses up an empty water bottle, lets it hit the table.

    "There is an innocent quality to Dirk," says trainer Casey Smith. Indeed. After the Mavs were upset by the Warriors in 2007, Nowitzki chose to drown his sorrows in ... a huge bowl of vanilla ice cream. "He lives in a dream world," Casey says. "He gets to do exactly what he's been doing since he was 16. Normal people go through changes and searches. He hasn't. He's in a unique reality."

    Mark Cuban pops by, asks if Nowitzki wants a ticket to watch WWE wrestling that weekend in the arena. He passes. When Nowitzki first moved to America, he checked out a match or two. "That was enough," he says. Instead he will get into his car and drive home, maybe watch some games on TV, alone. "I sometimes think people don't know me," he says. "I don't have a best buddy in Dallas or anything. Even now, when there is a big group, I'm very shy. The guys say the only words I spoke in the first year were, 'Sure, sure.'" He winces.

    "I hate confrontation. My sister said when I was young nobody ever knew what was really going on inside of me. I always come across that everything is fine. And," Nowitzki stops, chews his lower lip, "sometimes it might not be."

    He looks into the middle distance, plays with the water bottle some more. "At 31, maybe I should grow up," he says finally. "I still don't share my inner feelings. I'm tough to read. And I am okay with that. With not being seen. It is only once in a while that something is going on, and nobody can tell. Most of the time, I'm really happy. I'm not lonely.

    "Am I?"

    Allison Glock is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. Vanilla Rice

    Vanilla Rice Member

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    This. Repped.
     
  4. Gertso

    Gertso Member

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    Yep. Lebron certainly had help. Way more help than he had in his first trip to the finals.
     
  5. lalala902102001

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    I repsect Dirk's game and skills. I respect that he has stayed loyal to the team that drafted him after multiple failures. I will never be a fan however simply because of the jersey he's wearing.
     
  6. bullardfan

    bullardfan なんでやねん

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    There were quite a few annoying players on the Mavs. Dirk was never one of them. Even when he and Nash started playing for the Mavs, they were hated by their own fans.
     
  7. Drift Monkey

    Drift Monkey Member

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    You got it on the nose. If you've browsed any other Dallas/Dirk related threads, you'll have seen pull_up_3 in there, riding Dirk like a rodeo show. Nothing new.
     
  8. bullardfan

    bullardfan なんでやねん

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    that's how i feel about Bird. he killed us in the 80's and was a cocky sob who could back up all his talk. Dirk however has proven to be a class act.
     
  9. Pull_Up_3

    Pull_Up_3 Member

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    [​IMG]
     
  10. Joshfast

    Joshfast "We're all gonna die" - Billy Sole
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    bingo.
     
  11. plutoblue11

    plutoblue11 Member

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    That's good. But, you have to realize he has been this good and driven for the last 10 years. You are just respecting him.
     
  12. Drift Monkey

    Drift Monkey Member

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    [​IMG]
     
  13. Pull_Up_3

    Pull_Up_3 Member

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    [​IMG]
     
  14. JLOBABYDADDY

    JLOBABYDADDY Member

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    No you weren't. Too late.
     
  15. FranchiseBlade

    FranchiseBlade Contributing Member
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    same here. I'll never like him, but he does have my respect now. He's still annoying, and I mostly wish bad things to happen to him in the NBA. But for this one series I guess I want the Mavs to win, only because I hate the Heat more.

    If it's between James and Dirk getting a ring right now, I have to say Dirk is slightly the lesser of two evils.
     
  16. MONON

    MONON Member

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    I reffed intermural basketball in college during the 2-handed set-shot era. That wasn't a foul even back then. If you don't see it, don't call it. Even pro wrestling refs know that.
     
  17. Drift Monkey

    Drift Monkey Member

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    <object width="640" height="505"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/XaiMkP2wOVg?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/XaiMkP2wOVg?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="640" height="505"></embed></object>
     
  18. MONON

    MONON Member

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    I have always respected Dirk as a player. The grit he's showing now is really gratifying. IF HE JUST DIDN'T WORK FOR CUBAN!!!!:mad:
     
  19. Pull_Up_3

    Pull_Up_3 Member

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    <a href="http://www.gifsoup.com/view/2551124/dirk-dance.html" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.gifsoup.com/imager.php?id=2551124&t=o" border="0"/></a><br /><a href="http://www.gifsoup.com/" title="GIFSoup" target="_blank">GIFSoup</a>
     
  20. Drift Monkey

    Drift Monkey Member

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    [​IMG]
     

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