The veteran forward-center compares playing with the Dallas Mavericks over 16 years to being part of a circus. But Nowitzki has won a title and an MVP award and ranks second among active players behind Kobe Bryant on the alltime scoring list, with 26,347 points.
DAN PATRICK:Did you know you were tied for the NBA lead in free throw shooting?
DIRK NOWITZKI: I did not.
DP:If we went out and shot 100 free throws, how many would you make?
DN: On a good day, 95. What about you?
DP:Probably high 80s, low 90s.
DN: Not bad. I've seen your three ball. I was impressed.
DP:Remember I was shooting one day and you came by and yelled out, "The circus is in town!"
DN: You never let me live that down.
DN: We always used to say that. We had Dennis Rodman for a dozen games. We tried all sorts of stuff. We'd say, "stick a tent over this place." It wasn't about you and your jumper.
DP:Craziest person you've played with?
DN: Rodman. Another was Vernon Maxwell. There were a lot of crazy ones.
DP:You came in at 20. If you had come in at 18 or 19, would you have been ready?
DN: I felt when I was 20, I wasn't quite ready for the physical contact of 82 games. Mentally it was tough. I forgot what city we were in most of the time. I can't even imagine going through it at 18 or 19.
DP:What was it like playing against the guys you followed growing up?
DN: My whole first season was surreal. My first game was against Detlef Schrempf. There was German media everywhere. It was probably my worst NBA game. It was all a blur. My fourth game was against Houston. They had Hakeem [Olajuwon], Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen, and I loved all three of them. It took me half the season to get used to [it].
DP:[Mark] Cuban once said you were better than Larry Bird.
DN: Yeah, I wouldn't go there. Larry is one of the greatest to ever play. It's an honor, but it still feels weird.
DP:How much longer are you going to play?
DN: I'm not sure. I'm going to be a free agent after this year. I've had some knee problems. This year I feel better. I'll probably sign on for two or three years and see how it feels. As long as it's still fun.
DP:If we're having a shooting contest, where do I want to put you?
DN: The wing threes haven't been great for me. Corner is the easiest three in basketball. Top of the key is my shot. I trail the play a lot. I'm not as quick as I used to be. Get me on either wing and you have a chance.
DP:I still want to challenge you.
DN: Done. You better hurry. I only have a couple of years left.
South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier is glad that the NCAA tabled a proposal to slow down up-tempo offenses. "Our rules are fine," Spurrier told me. "You don't have to have 80 or 90 plays in a game. If the other offense can stay on the field and convert a bunch of third downs, then you can keep the no-huddle offense on the bench." ... I asked Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino if he had recruited LeBron James. "I tried to get in there," Pitino said, "and then I watched him play and realized college was not in his realm." ... Mavericks owner Mark Cuban proposed a solution to discourage back-of-the-pack NBA teams from losing in order to improve their draft positions: "If you want to avoid tanking, you just say, 'If you have one of the three worst records, you're not eligible for one of the three best picks. You've got to fight your way to at least the fourth-worst record.'"
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (PATRICK)
FERNANDO MEDINA/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (NOWITZKI)
BILL FRAKES/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (SPURRIER)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (PITINO)
RAY AMATI/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (CUBAN)