How Nice Is Nowitzki?

It is only fitting with Justin Timberlake sitting atop the R&B music charts and Eminem holding down the #1 position in Hip-Hop sales, that I would reveal that right now, my favorite basketball player to watch is a White guy. Don't get it twisted, I am still down with the 76ers and A.I. 'til I die, but I'm sorry, if I had to choose how I would spend my money at arenas across the country, if travel were no object; as well as how I spend any satellite TV, TBS or ESPN NBA viewing time, put me in the city of Dallas 41 nights a year.

After seeing what Nowitzki did Friday night, in Boston, I really can't see how anybody can front on the Dallas Mavericks' superstar anymore. In a 32 points, 9 rebound, and 7 assist performance, the German-born 7 foot player showed why he is the talk of the NBA this year. I first became impressed with the play of Nowitzki a few years ago when I saw him, in about a 3-minute stretch, dribble the ball the length of the court, dunk, and shoot the most beautiful three-pointer I had ever seen. I instantly began to ask my basketball braintrust about Dirk. The response was always the refrain, "Yeah, he's nice."

Nowitzki's player profile position places him as a "F-C," of course, for forward-center. But I have to beg to differ. He realy needs to be deemed a G-F-C because I honestly believe Nowitzki can hold down at least 4 of the 5 positions available on the court.

Friday night, I saw former NBA star Sean Elliot say that Nowitzki is the "next Larry Bird." Ex-great Tim Hardaway told him to slow his roll with that analogy and I agree, to an extent. Sean Elliot was engaged in racial profiling more than a pure basketball analysis. I actually think it would be more appropriate to compare Nowitzki to Magic Johnson or Charles Barkley in terms of pure versatility and the "unique" factor. Sports Illustrated has referred to him as a "superfreak." I don't like that word but I get the point. Like Magic Johnson, the NBA has never, ever, seen anything like Dirk Nowitzki.

How Nice Is Nowitzki?


Ranks #12 in the NBA in Points Per Game(22.2)

Ranks #8 in the NBA in Rebounds Per Game(11.1)

Ranks #14 in the NBA in Minutes Played(382.0)

Ranks #15 in the NBA in Field Goals Made(75.0)

Ranks #12 in the NBA in Three-Point Field Goals Made(17.0)

Ranks #11 in the NBA in Free Throws(55.0)

Ranks #16 in the NBA in Free Throw Attempts(64.0)

Ranks #2 in the NBA in Defensive Rebounds(104.0)

Ranks #1 in the NBA in Defensive Rebounds Per Game(10.4)

Ranks #6 in the NBA in Total Rebounds(111.0)

Ranks #13 in the NBA in Steals(18.0)

Ranks #9 in the NBA in Points(222.0)

Ranks #3 in the NBA in Double-doubles(7.0)

Ranks #18 in the NBA in Free Throws Per 48 Minutes(6.91)

Ranks #2 in the NBA in Defensive Rebounds Per 48 Minutes(13.1)

Ranks #16 in the NBA in Points Per 48 Minutes(27.9)

Ranks #3 in the NBA in Total Efficiency Points(280.0)

Ranks #4 in the NBA in Efficiency Ranking(28.0)

Ranks #3 in the NBA in Efficiency Ranking Per 48 Minutes(35.18)

Prior to this year, everybody knew that the only "D" that Nowitzki could embrace was the one in his first name. But this year, that has changed. Nowitzki has suddenly fallen in love with the idea of hard-nosed, aggressive defense and has somehow committed himself to shoring up the weak spot in his game. He grabbed 16 defensive rebounds in a game against Portland last week; had 6 steals in that very same game, and has blocked 2 shots on four occassions this season, in only 10 games played.

The other night, the Nowitzki tour rolled into New Jersey and handed the Nets only their third loss of the year, in front of 16,634 fans. It was New Jersey's first loss of the year at home. Jason Kidd, the all-NBA Nets' point guard was impressed by the traveling Texans, saying after the game, "They got guys that once they get off the bus, they can shoot it from there." People last year said the same thing but now they have to respect the defense. Dallas held the Nets to only 15 points in the fourth quarter.

Whether the Mavericks keep winning or not is really irrelevant to me, except twice a year. Remember, I am a 76ers fan and am quite content with our quota of White athleticism. Keith Van Horn is working out rather nicely, as I predicted (See "Mutombo For Van Horn...And MacCulloch? I'm With It." August 7, 2002).

But it sure is nice to have an out-of-state connect in Dirk Nowitzki, with no emotional attachments.

Justin Timberlake, Eminem, and now Dirk Nowitzki? I think I can handle it.

Respect the game.

Now if only we could use Dirk Nowitzki to prove some larger point about race relations the way Whites use Tiger Woods...

Cedric Muhammad is Publisher Of and can be reached via e-mail at

Cedric Muhammad

Monday, November 18, 2002