Dirk Nowitzki's retirement tour came to an emotional crescendo on Tuesday night, when the Mavericks played their last game at home in Dallas.
A former champion and MVP who revolutionized the way big men are expected to play basketball, the legend that is removed has been the league's toast this season. Throughout the year, the NBA has endeavored to celebrate Nowitzki (as well as his retired rival, Dwyane Wade) with unprecedented enthusiasm. The fans did everything possible to bathe Dirk with affection normally reserved for local players. It sounded like all of Boston was cheering Dirk to shoot in the last moments of his last game against the Celtics. (Unfortunately, he is now 40 years old and failed several attempts). In Brooklyn, the Nets fans applauded Dirk more than the Nets. He got a standing ovation at MSG. There were cheers of "We want Dirk!" In Portland. In Los Angeles, Clippers coach Doc Rivers actually stopped a game to take the PA microphone and request the audience's applause for Dirk. Nowitzki and Wade received special places in the All-Star Game, even though their game was well below that level, and the crowd became completely wild when Dirk drilled some 3-pointers. It is difficult to find a fan of hoops that you do not like, and it is impossible to find someone who does not respect him. Fans across the country let Dirk know as his career ended.
However, nothing could prepare Dirk for the way he was treated on his last night in Dallas. It was billed as 41.21.1 night, a celebration of the fact that it did not. 41 is the only player to have spent 21 seasons with a single NBA franchise. The grateful Mavs employees filled the tunnels under the stadium so thoroughly that He could not even get to his parking spot. A group of former NBA players that Nowitzki has described as Your favorites to watch grow. I flew to Dallas to celebrate. Dirk also played a basketball game, becoming the oldest player in NBA history to score 30 points. (It took 31 shots, but nobody complained). After a video about the work he has done in the community over the years, Dirk could not keep it together, crying on the court:
Dirk tried a shot shortly after the video, with poor results. "I do not even think I saw the edge," Nowitzki said. "I had so many tears in my eyes."
There was only one difficulty for the whole thing. Before the game, Dirk had not said he was retiring. In fact, when asked about his future plans throughout the season, he delayed his response and told reporters that while he appreciated the tributes and love of the entire league, he was not sure if he would retire.
On Tuesday night, he did announce his retirement, although the New York Times'Marc Stein noticed that Nowitzki I never really used the word "retirement" instead, focusing on the fact that Tuesday night was his last home game with Dallas. (Indicates the speculation that Dirk has accepted some strange arrangement in which he only plays road games, or What comes to the Knicks with Kevin Durant?) Some believe that Dirk did not announce his retirement simply because he is humble and did not want to be celebrated. But if we listen to what Dirk said, it sounds like I was not sure I wanted to retire until the last days, and that his decision was focused mainly on his intense pain in the foot.
The retirement tour has become a regular and beautiful way to send sporting legends to the Deadlands. (Maybe a bit overwhelming at times, but still beautiful!) Dirk, however, was strange. Why did we organize a retirement party for a player who had not said he was retiring?
The player retreats have been cause for mbadive appreciation since Lou Gehrig told a crowded crowd at Yankee Stadium that he was the luckiest man on the face of the earth. Even retirement trips were not invented yesterday. In 2003, the only time that Michael Jordan announced his retirement in a no stranger way, the GOAT was held for a whole season: Vince Carter gave MJ his starting job in the All-Star Game, and the halftime performance it was Mariah Carey acting as a variety of Jordanians. The Heat retired Jordan's number the last time he played in Miami, confusing everyone and eventually preventing LeBron James from using his preferred number during his time in the franchise. The 76ers turned Jordan's last game into Philadelphia at a party, flying into the old announcer of the Palestinian Authority in Chicago to introduce Jordan and committing a series of intentional fouls to obtain mbadive cheers from MJ at the end of the regulation.
But now we have completely entered the Retirement Era. I think it started in earnest in 2014, when the Yankees let a Derek Jeter barely move into the sunset while presenting a worse team OPS and the worst field statistics in the league. He received ridiculous retirement gifts from all the teams he played: did he bring his bucket of steamed Baltimore crabs to his hotel room, ate them at the baseball stadium, or simply threw them away? And the Red Sox hired an Aretha Franklin impersonator to sing "Respect." In 2015-16, the Lakers let Kobe Bryant have one of the dumbest seasons in NBA history, leading the league in field goal attempts for 36 minutes (21.5) while posting the worst percentage of field goals. in the league (35.8 percent). On the last night of the season, coverage of Bryant's last game was aired to a national audience (even though the Warriors tried to win his 73rd game), and he took 50 shots and scored 60 points.
Three years ago, The ringerClaire McNear wrote about how retirement tours seemed to be overcoming the limits of what anyone could find pleasurable when David Ortiz actively complained about the number of pre-game ceremonies and wished he would keep his retirement plans a secret so he could concentrate on the damn. games But they have only become bigger and more robust. Now, practically every star men's baseball or basketball player has a retirement tour, and a process that used to be contained in a postseason press conference has become an all-season odyssey of admiration.
Dirk, however, was something different. Most retreat trips are made only after a player announces that they are leaving the sport and gives their consent to participate in the festivities. As with Wade, who announced that he would retire in September and spent the year reflecting publicly on the end. As the world read Dirk, he was not even sure he wanted to quit. The ceremonies and the standing ovations implied that he should do it. While the words came out of everyone's mouth, they expressed feelings like "We'll miss you!", There was a heavy subtext of "It's time you left." Dirk's 2018-19 season was one of "we will remain friends." short message of an attempt to break without confrontation.
Of course, Nowitzki should be retiring He published career minimums in practically all the important statistics of this season. He would have posted the lowest field goal percentage in the league but, unlike Kobe, he did not try to make enough shots to qualify. It was several steps slower than during the peak of his career and, well, he was not particularly fast during the peak of his career. There really was not an argument for him to be in an NBA apartment other than nostalgia. (The ringers John Gonzalez lovingly badigned Dirk, one of his favorite players, to Mt. Washedmore.)
What would have happened if Dirk it did not Do you want to retire? Sports franchises have no obligation to continue paying big moguls like Nowitzki millions to have a mediocre performance on the court, and if Dirk had continued appearing and asking the Mavericks a place on the list, eventually they would have to say no. That's when things have become unfortunate. We have seen great players being exchanged or eliminated (I'm thinking of Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing finishing their careers with the Raptors and the Magic) or trying to push their products for scarce salaries in strange leagues abroad (I'm thinking of the awkward tour of Allen Iverson meeting with the Sixers in a one-month attempt to play in Turkey).
There are much worse ways for a player's career to end than Dirk's. He was given an emotional and moving farewell that celebrated his impact on his sport, his franchise and his place in the hearts of Dallas fans. But his final season still marked a turning point in the direction of the retirement tour. The previous farewell tours were given to the great retirees who asked for a last moment of glory, and teams and fans gave them permission to play large roles, despite the fact that their levels of talent in the last stages such they have not deserved them. However, what began as a way to allow players to come out on their own terms can now be used as a way of telling them that it is their time to leave. Dirk's unsolicited retreat trip was an armed adulation. We loved Dirk out loud in the hope that he did not care that we were actually asking him to leave.