Good Word with Goodwill - Dirk Nowitzki on his book & battling the ‘soft’ label

The NBA 75th Anniversary Team member joined Yahoo Sports senior NBA writer Vincent Goodwill to discuss the American release of his book “The Great Nowitzki” and his battles against the top power forwards of his era, in particular some testy exchanges with Kevin Garnett.

Dirk joined Yahoo Sports to promote his book “The Great Nowitzki: Basketball and the Meaning of Life”, which will be released on March 15 - buy your copy here.

Video Transcript


VINCENT GOODWILL: Welcome back to Yahoo Sports. I'm Vincent Goodwill here with basketball Hall of Famer, basketball lifer, Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk is promoting his new book, The Great Nowitzki: Basketball and the Meaning of Life. Dirk, thanks for joining us today. As one of the most beloved figures in basketball, what made you decide to take part in a book? Most guys wait a little bit. You've kind of come a few years after retirement.

DIRK NOWITZKI: Yeah. So actually this book has been out in Germany for a couple of years. Now, it's just hitting the American market. We just had to translate it. So the book came out in Germany about two, two and a half years ago. The writer came up to me with the idea right after we won the championship. And he wanted to kind of follow me through the last couple of years of my career. And I said, sure, there shouldn't be that much left. I was already 33 at the time, 34.

We had no idea, obviously, that I was going to play six, seven, eight more years after that. And then he's like, well, I don't want to write the book now and then you're still playing. So he literally followed me for the last seven, eight years of my career capturing some of the cool milestones I got at the end. And then once I retired, then he finished the book. So it's a nice little story about what it takes to be in an NBA life, I guess. So it's a neat little story.

VINCENT GOODWILL: Looking back from 2007, did you change or did we change? What did you think of that soft label? Was it based off of a stereotype about you being a European player? Was it about a style thing? How did you take that?

DIRK NOWITZKI: Well, it's a little bit of everything. I think it's normal. There weren't that many European players in the league when I first came. And of course, I was skinny. I was a jump shooter as a seven footer. So automatically, that's perceived as soft. I was never-- I never really changed into a tough, physical player. I mean, I like to think I was mentally tough, but it's not like I was out there elbowing cats on the rebound. It's just not my style.

I do remember those stereotypes at the beginning, like I'd be guarding somebody on the wing in front of the opposing bench and all I hear from the bench, like, go at him, he's soft! And it was cool. It was-- for me, the whole trash talking and it was new and it was something I had to get used to and fight back. And it motivated me to fill up my body, get stronger, and get a little better on defense and compete a little harder.

And so those are the good old days. People would come at me and try to intimidate me. And I always remember KG always came up to me like this close, nose to nose, would follow me and try to intimidate me. And those were fun times to kind of go through that and try to establish yourself as a scorer and a leader. And so those are good times to compete against the best of the best.

And as you know, at the power forward position, early 2000s, whether you went to-- you go to Sacramento, you see Chris Webber. You go to Portland and see Rasheed Wallace. You go to Minnesota, you see KG. You go to Utah, there's still Karl Malone. And you go whatever it is, Zach Randolph. And it's just the power forward position was loaded and every night you had to bring it. And of course, didn't even talk about Tim Duncan yet in San Antonio. So the West was stacked every night and I had to compete and I think that made me a better player.

VINCENT GOODWILL: So who said the craziest thing to you, trash talk wise? Was it Kevin Garnett? What was the craziest thing someone said to you that made you say, come on, man. Seriously?

DIRK NOWITZKI: I mean, KG was definitely a very intense guy. And he tried to intimidate you and especially when I first got there in the league and we were just getting good. But he tried to push you around a little bit and let you know, hey, this is my spot here. And I can't really remember what was said back and forth, but he was just like he was trying to bully you a little bit. And you know, sometimes he'd walk out of a timeout and there he already left his huddle early and he was standing there following me around the whole way just trying to be in my way and pushing me, not letting me walk to where I want to walk to. And KG, I admire him for his energy, for his competitiveness. And so I always had great battles with KG.