Nowitzki: Kobe was the Michael Jordan of our time

One of the greatest power-forwards to have ever graced the NBA, Dirk Nowitzki will lead the Dallas Mavericks against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the upcoming play-offs.

Dirk Nowitzki is the highest scoring international player in the history of the NBA.   -  AP

Dirk Nowitzki has been with the Dallas Mavericks since 1998 and to say that he has had a stellar career would be putting it mildly. Standing seven feet tall, 'Big Dirk' led the Mavericks to their only championship in 2011 and is sixth in the NBA all-time scoring list after crossing 29,000 points this season.

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Yet another play-off appearance awaits you. How would you describe the regular season?

It's been a great year again. It's been a little bit of up and down for our Mavericks. We're happy with the playoffs. We had some injury problems all year long. We fought through them. And we had a great finish here to the season, winning like five or six in a row to squeeze in the playoffs. The 15th time in 16 years is a pretty special run. And now we're looking forward to the playoffs. Oklahoma [City] obviously is a very good team with two of the best players in this league, but looking forward to the challenge.



Are you positive on reaching the second round of the playoffs this year?

I have to say that we are not going as favorites into this series. I think Oklahoma [City] has played a great season and has two of the best players that we have in the league. But we have played some good games against them and I think three out of the four we lost were quite close, and we could have won those if the end of the game is a bit different. So we have to approach this full steam and have to fight like we have done it in the past 2-3 weeks. We have to play together and then we will see what happens.



Do you recall any other seasons since you were in the NBA in which the championship was tougher to win than in this one with the Warriors, the Spurs, the Cavs, and even the Thunder?

I feel like the top of the league has gotten better and better over the years. The talent pool just keeps getting better in these good teams. And, yeah, I mean it's really, really hard these days to win it up there.

I mean, look, San Antonio has an incredible year, only lost like 14, 15 games and they're still five, six games behind the Warriors. It's an incredible amount of talent these teams have. And it should be a fun playoffs, an exciting playoffs; exciting for the league, exciting for our sport. And it will be fun to watch, I'm sure.



The (Golden State) Warriors have such a special style of playing basketball. Can you describe their style and what makes them such an outstanding team?

They have unbelievable shooters. Usually a team has like one Steph [Curry] or one Klay [Thompson] or whatever. But to have two of those caliber two shooters, two scorers like that on the court at the same time is unbelievable. One of them can go for eight to 10 threes on any given night. And they're just fun to watch.

And I think the rest of the team is just built perfect around them. They got rebounders. They got some athletes. They got some defenders. They're really, really good in every position. They're deep. They've got length. They're just a really, really good team.



Being a big football fan, what was your reaction during the 2014 World Cup when Germany beat Brazil 7-1?

I was able to follow every World Cup game here in the U.S. and then actually for the final, back in the days, I was in Germany. So I remember watching them with my family and when [Mario] Götze scored the game-winning goal in overtime, I almost kicked the table over with all the drinks on it. And that was an incredible experience for the whole country. Seeing everybody happy and celebrating, that was unbelievable.



How do you think the Lakers handled the whole spectacle of Kobe's last game? And do you expect the Mavericks to do something similar for you one day?

I don't think anybody will get something like that again for a while. Kobe's meant so much to not only the Lakers, but to the league, to basketball worldwide. He's been an ambassador. And, obviously, I always say he was the Michael Jordan of our generation and very deservedly got an unbelievable send-off yesterday. With ex-players being there, with his teammates giving him the ball over and over, wanting him to score, and then him winning the game basically at the end, scoring the last, I don't know, 15 points straight. And, basically, the fans never sat down anymore in the last quarter, just chanting his name. I actually had goosebumps just watching it and I was really happy for him.



How do you anticipate the future of German basketball and could you imagine being a part of it as a functionary, for instance, as a trainer of the national team in years to come?

I have always said German basketball is obviously close to me. I grew up playing there. I played nationally for more than 10 years. I had some great success, some great experiences with great coaches and teammates. So, I think once my career is over we can sit down with the national team and kind of talk about what their future plans are and see if I can be of any help. But I think that's, obviously, a few years down the road. I still want to compete a couple more years probably in the NBA, the way things are going. So I think we're going to have a little time.



You said you see yourself playing a few more years. What kind of role do you imagine for yourself? Kobe went from being superstar to basically a mentor to a group of young players. And you're still the guy in Dallas.

I always just adjust to whatever is needed. To me, I always saw my role as a team leader. I need to do whatever is asked of me to do any given night, and that's try to help win. Some nights that might be just sitting on the bench and letting some young guy who's having a great game, and I'm struggling, maybe let him finish out the game and let him win. And I'm cheering for him. Some nights it might be some more scoring. Some nights it might be just getting some rebounds.

So, the last couple years I don't think anything will change. Maybe my minutes go down as I get older. Maybe my shots go down. It doesn't matter. I want to be there for the team. I want to help win. And, really, everything else is secondary. I don't play for records or numbers. I've always played to compete and to win with my team. And that's how it's going to be the last couple years.