Welcome to King of the Court, our daily celebration of the best performances in basketball from the night that was. We’ll be keeping track of the best player of every night of the NBA season, and tallying the results as we go along.
King of the Court: Dirk Nowitzki
The Mavericks played the Lakers on Tuesday night, and Dirk Nowitzki needed 20 points to join the 30,000 Club.
The 30,000 Club is a small, exclusive club that entertains the august likes of (in order) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and Wilt Chamberlain. It’s a club in which, I assume, the members all hang out smoking hand-rolled Cuban cigars on hand-carved Christopher Guy chairs in a room with the perfect amount of natural light, throwing their heads back in laughter while weighing whether they should go splitsies on an island.
Now, I have nothing against the Lakers — some of my very best friends are lakes — but this current iteration is only mildly interested in playing defense and only for one quarter at a time (occasionally two, max). Getting into that ritzy 30,000 Club on this particular night for Dirk was, to put it mildly, a sure thing. I want to be clear, though: There is nothing unimpressive about 30,000 points. In fact, it is only impressive. Because it’s 30,000 points.
He was perfect on his first five field goals, two of which were 3s, and added two makes from the charity stripe that brought him to 14. The drama was basically over six minutes in when he was replaced briefly by Nerlens Noel.
He came within two points of pulling it off in the first quarter: Julius Randle flustered him into a low-percentage and ultimately doomed baseline jumper, as anyone defending Dirk should, but I will never forgive Julius Randle. There was also a moment when Dirk passed out of a double in the high post to Devin Harris and clearly wanted it back, but Harris took his open look, as anyone should. The tally stayed at 18. I will never forgive Devin Harris, either.
It all worked out a minute into the second quarter. He lured Larry Nance Jr. into the corner, swept the ball low, and reclined into that one-leg jumper we’ve seen entirely too many times to count. On the next trip up the floor he hit another 3, because, you know, the game was still going on, and also because Dirk Nowitzki is like if Daryl Dixon’s crossbow was a human.
Dirk is now in the 30,000 Club. Light the cohibas.
He’s come a long way from asking Bow Wow for his autograph in Like Mike. He’s come an even longer way from finishing his first game as a Maverick — after being hyped up by Don Nelson as a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year in 1998 — with two points, having gone 0-for-5 from the field.
Since then, he’s led or tied all Dallas scorers in 712 games (including leading all scorers with 25 points in Tuesday night’s 122–111 win). He led Dallas in scoring for 14 straight seasons between 2001 and 2014, including 2011, when he led the Mavericks over LeBron James and the Heat to the franchise’s only NBA title. After which, he led all of downtown Dallas in a beautifully off-key rendition of “We Are the Champions.”
Dirk Nowitzki wins. This is true of Tuesday’s King of the Court honors, and incidentally, it’s true of life.