An overlooked giant: The Dirk Nowitzki story

In a world where the average man stands 5' 9" tall, a 7 footer has somehow gone unnoticed. In a league where roughly 80 percent of its players are black, a white man has been overlooked. In a profession where accomplishing your task successfully 40 percent of the time puts you in elite company, this man - no, this machine - converts at a nearly 50 percent rate.

Despite this history, we have ignored him time and again.

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He led one team to 67 wins. Guided another to the NBA Finals. All the while, he's posted statistics that rival, if not outshine, some of basketball most distinguished legends'.

But, he has no shoe to sell you.

No phone and no cologne too. His poster is probably not up on your wall. His jersey, not in your wardrobe. And maybe that's the problem. Maybe greatness is defined as much by your marketability as your performance nowadays. Maybe we need to wear sparkling blue Dirks and buy our dads Dirk by Dior for Father's Day before we're ready to recognize him.

Maybe we just don't like his last name.

The w that sounds like a v and z before the ki. What's all that about?

Whatever the case may be, Dirk Nowitzki has exploded with a sudden violence in the 2011 NBA Playoffs that is nearly impossible to parallel historically and the shrapnel from his detonation should be all over our guilty faces.

Think about this for a second.

What were the NBA's prominent stories this regular season? Will the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics meet in the finals again? Who's the MVP: LeBron James or Derrick Rose? Are we ready to crown Kevin Durant as the best offensive player in the NBA? Who's the best shooter ever: Ray Allen or Reggie Miller? Is Kobe Bryant still the top clutch performer in the league?

Dirk legitimately belonged in all of these discussions. In fact, if you really dig into the numbers, he deserves more than just mention in some of these debates. And yet, as little as two months ago, if you'd introduced his name into any of those conversations, you would have been ridiculed.

A man does not become an all time great overnight. You don't just have a great game and transform into the modern Larry Bird. That takes years upon years of ice, sweat and eminence.

It also takes a lot of unfocused cameras and uninterested pens.

For 13 years, Dirk Nowitzki has been called a soft choker. For those same 13 years, he has outperformed 99 percent of the most distinguished athletes on the planet. In the same amount time both Larry Bird and Magic Johnson played, Dirk has scored more points than both, at almost 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from behind the arc and 90 percent from the free throw line, some of the most impressive statistics by a high volume jump shooter in history of basketball. He is also on pace to cruise into the top 10 most points and the top 20 most rebounds of all time, two of the NBA's most selective clubs imaginable.

It's officially time for us to stop blaming him, a man whose best teammate for nearly decade has been a sixth man, for his teams' inadequacies.

Legends may be created in flashes, but longevity is the stuff of greatness.

Dirk Nowitzki has sculptured as a masterpiece of a career. He deserves our recognition and attention.

Luckily for us, his story has more chapters waiting to be written.

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Charles Joel is a member of the Yahoo! Contributor Network.
Updated Tuesday, May 24, 2011