DALLAS (AP) — Dirk Nowitzki has not said whether he is retiring because he never wanted a farewell tour.
As much as the Mavericks have tried to honor the 40-year-old’s request, owner Mark Cuban makes no secret of the team’s desire to recognize the big German in the final home game of his record 21st season with the same franchise. Dallas hosts Phoenix on Tuesday night.
“I know a little bit. Don’t want to know too much,” Nowitzki said recently of the plans, which include a giant downtown mural and other tidbits that were detailed in a news release last week around the same time Cuban told fans to show up early and expect to stay late. “I still kind of got to focus on the game. Just want to go out there and hopefully perform a little bit and enjoy competing. Everything else will be a surprise to me.”
A watch party is planned for the final game of the season in San Antonio on Wednesday, with the Mavericks long since eliminated from the playoff contention for a third straight season. It’s the longest drought of Nowitzki’s career.
Nowitzki, a few steps slower than in his prime and a role player on a team now led by rookie sensation and fellow European Luka Doncic, has been serenaded in every road arena. Some opposing fans chanted, “We want Dirk,” late in games with outcomes decided and Nowitzki on the bench.
The 14-time All-Star gave the home folks the thrill of passing Wilt Chamberlain to regain sixth on the career scoring list last month. Nowitzki reached that spot last season, but LeBron James passed him. Nowitzki, who led the Mavericks to their only championship in 2011, had 31,510 points with two games to go.
The NBA’s highest-scoring, foreign-born player broke Kobe Bryant’s record of 20 seasons with the same franchise, although it took longer than expected because of setbacks following ankle surgery that sidelined Nowitzki for the first 26 games.
Bryant retired from the Lakers three years ago. It’s expected that Nowitzki will pass on joining former teammate Vince Carter, who has said he plans to return for a record 22nd season. Carter has played for eight teams.
If Nowitzki doesn’t return, the 20-year-old Doncic still will be able to say he spent a season with the player who changed the game as the first 7-footer who was a legitimate threat from the 3-point line.
“All the things he did for the NBA,” Doncic said. “Now every big fella trying to shoot the ball from 3. Dirk made it happen, and he deserves everything.”
Nowitzki will get showered with praise Tuesday night, whether he wants it or not.