Dirk Nowitzki officially retires from Germany's national team

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Dirk Nowitzki applauds the fans after Germany's loss to Spain in EuroBasket 2015. (AP/Axel Schmidt)
Dirk Nowitzki applauds the fans after Germany's loss to Spain in EuroBasket 2015. (AP/Axel Schmidt)

Four months after leaving himself some wiggle room in case he changed his mind, Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki has officially closed the door. He announced Sunday that he is retiring from international competition with the German national team for which he has starred since 1997.

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From Agence France-Presse:

"The last match at Euro 2015 was my last match for Germany," the 37-year-old Nowitzki told Bild newspaper.

On that occasion in Berlin on September 10, Germany lost 77-76 to Spain, a loss which knocked them out of the competition.

Nowitzki had previously held out hope that Germany, despite its elimination from this past summer's EuroBasket tournament, would be granted a "wild card" bid to host one of FIBA's Olympic Qualifying Tournaments to determine the final three entrants in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. From Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com:

“I had said it before [EuroBasket 2015], if the tournament was anywhere else, I would not be there,” Nowitzki explained. “But since it was here in Germany and the fans have supported me for so long, my entire career, this was sort of a ‘thank you’ to them, for me to come and play one more time.

“If there is a slight chance to play next summer, if there is a pre-Olympic tournament here in Germany, then that’s for sure my last time playing.”

But when FIBA announced last week that Italy, Serbia and the Philippines will host the events, and that the list of participants won't include Germany — Angola, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Iran, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Senegal, Serbia, Tunisia, Latvia, Croatia and Turkey will complete the 18-team field — the 37-year-old Nowitzki decided the time had come to hang up the Germany jersey he'd donned 153 times in international play since his debut in February 1997, in which he'd led Germany to a bronze medal in the 2002 FIBA World Championship, a silver medal in EuroBasket 2005 (winning MVP honors in both tournaments) and just its fifth-ever Olympic appearance in 2008. The second-highest scorer in EuroBasket history will now return his full focus to further cementing his position as the greatest European professional basketball player ever.

The sixth-leading scorer in NBA history continues to shine for Dallas, averaging 17.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 30.7 minutes per game, shooting 40 percent from 3-point land and 90 percent from the foul line for a Mavericks club that enters Monday's play at 25-21, a half-game behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference.

While Nowitzki surely would've preferred to exit the international stage on a higher note than a 1-4 preliminary record and an early elimination from EuroBasket, it's hard to imagine a more beautiful and rewarding farewell than the one the fans in Berlin gave Dirk after that 77-76 loss to Spain back in September:

It was a fitting and heartwarming tribute, even if it was a few months premature, and it stands now as a perfect capper to one of the greatest careers international basketball has ever seen.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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