The induction ceremony for the new members of the Basketball Hall of Fame provides many emotional moments. Even the great German can only hold back tears with difficulty in his speech
Dirk Nowitzki had to collect himself briefly on stage during the last very big public honour for his outstanding basketball career. Wearing a blue suit with a pocket square and tie, the 45-year-old from Würzburg, Germany, cracked jokes and took potshots at old teammates on the Dallas Mavericks during his induction speech into his sport’s hall of fame on Saturday night (local time). When it was his parents’ turn, possibly Germany’s greatest athlete became emotional and shed tears.
“What you have done for me, I will never forget for the rest of my life, and if I become half as good a father as you parents were for me, then I will be happy,” Nowitzki said in German in his otherwise English speech, to great applause from the guests.
His wife Jess, children Malaika, Max and Morris, his parents Jörg-Werner and Helga, sister Silke as well as mentor and coach Holger Gschwindner were all there when he received the greatest possible honour for his career in Springfield in the US state of Massachusetts and became the first German to be inducted into the “Naismith Hall of Fame”. “Being in the Hall of Fame means everything to me,” Nowitzki said right at the start of his 15-minute speech.
The last (for now) of the many honours
The only professional in NBA history to play for only one team during his 21 years in the league, the Dallas Mavericks. He led the Texans to the first and still only championship in their history in 2011, was the first European to be voted the league’s most valuable player and is number six in the all-time scoring list. But he also left a deep mark because of his most dangerous weapon, which every fan and every current professional basketball player associates with him: the one-legged fadeaway.
The statue in front of the Mavericks’ arena in Dallas shows him in this pose and was the penultimate of the many great honours bestowed on Nowitzki since his career ended four years ago. The German national team (14) and the Mavericks (41) no longer award his respective jersey numbers, and Dallas has a street named after him.
Nowitzki’s induction into the Hall of Fame marked the end of an entire chapter in his life. “There’s nothing else that can come in a basketball career,” he said the day before being honoured on the east coast in the US. “The Hall of Fame is the top of the mountain, it finishes this phase of my life. “
Joking at the expense of former teammates
His former teammates Steve Nash and Jason Kidd were on stage with him and after much praise, they also had to put up with a joke. “I would have loved to have played with both of them at the height of their game but had to work with what they could give me,” Nowitzki said to great laughter from the audience.
The other honourees also interspersed a lot of humour in their speeches. Tony Parker, the first Frenchman and Pau Gasol, the first Spaniard in the Hall of Fame, joked as well as the often grumpy coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs and Dwyane Wade, who caused one of the bitterest defeats in Nowitzki’s career with the Miami Heat when the Mavericks lost the 2006 Finals series.
“It’s been therapy for Dirk and me,” Wade said, referring to the combined schedules of all members of the 2023 class in recent weeks. “Who would have thought we’d end up on the same team after all the battles. And this is one of the best teams I’ve ever been on. “