COMMENTARY | Get used to the company, Dirk.
With his 35 points in a 123-120 home victory over the Houston Rockets on Nov. 20, Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki moved into 15th place on the all-time NBA scoring list, passing Hall of Famer Reggie Miller.
As Nowitzki continues to climb the ladder, the theme will be the same as he clips great after great.
In the top 15, there are three active players (Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Nowitzki), and 11 players who reside in The Hall. Shaquille O'Neal, who is currently sixth all-time, isn't eligible for basketball immortality until 2017, and he will most certainly be a first-ballot selection.
Through Sunday's games, Nowitzki is five points behind Garnett and 70 points behind Alex English.
By the end of the season, Nowitzki could find himself in the top 10 and by career's end, he could be in the top 5.
In 1996, two years before Nowitzki came into the league, the NBA announced its 50 Greatest Players of All Time, and aside from Bryant, Garnett, and O'Neal, only two -- English and Wilkins -- in the top 15 all-time scorers aren't part of the 50.
If the list were released today, Nowitzki would certainly be on it.
He is the only sharp-shooting 7-footer with every shot in his arsenal from the dunk, to the fade away jumper to the three-pointer, and he ranks 23rd all-time in scoring average at 22.6 points per game.
Along with a bushel basket full of Mavericks records, Nowitzki ranks 25th on the all-time three-point field goals made list with 1,364, while hitting .382 percent of his shots from behind the arc. He's in elite company in that stat as well.
For good measure, he is 13th all-time on career free-throw percentage at .878.
In his career, Nowitzki has scored more than 1,000 points in a season in 13 of his 15 years in the league. His first year he scored just 385, and in 53 games last season he scored 917.
The 11-time All-Star and only European-born player to win the MVP Award has surpassed 2,000 points five times, including a career-high 2,151 in the 2005-06 season.
Nowitzki, a relative unknown from Wurzburg, Germany, was the ninth overall pick of the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1998 draft and traded to the Mavericks for Robert Traylor, was selected by Dallas sixth overall after his junior season at the University of Michigan.
That's a trade the Bucks wish they never would have made.
Traylor played seven seasons (two in Milwaukee) and finished with a career average of 4.8 points per game.
The top eight selections in 1998 in order: Michael Olowokandi (Pacific, Los Angeles Clippers); Mike Bibby (Arizona, Memphis Grizzlies); Raef LaFrentz (Kansas, Denver Nuggets); Antawn Jamison (North Carolina, Toronto Raptors); Vince Carter (North Carolina, Golden State Warriors); Traylor (Michigan, Dallas Mavericks); Jason Williams (Florida, Sacramento Kings) and Larry Hughes (St. Louis, Philadelphia 76ers).
Right now, Nowitzki's marks -- both NBA and Mavericks records -- are written in pencil as to be easily erased when he moves up with every deadly three-pointer, soft floater and perfect foul shot.
When he named is finally etched in stone, he will be right up there with the great ones.
Jay Hinton lives in Fort Worth and had followed the Mavericks since moving to the area three years ago. He has been a journalist for 17 years and his work has been published in the Deseret News, The Salt Lake Tribune and The Times-Picayune.
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- Dirk Nowitzki
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