Steve Kerr lauds Dirk Nowitzki as NBA's 'greatest international player'

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  • Golden State Warriors
    Golden State Warriors
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Dirk Nowitzki
    Dirk Nowitzki
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  • Steve Kerr
    Steve Kerr
    American basketball player and coach
  • Klay Thompson
    Klay Thompson
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Kerr calls Dirk NBA's 'greatest international player' ever originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

As the Warriors await the return of one of their own stars in Klay Thompson, Steve Kerr didn't waste any time Wednesday by opening his pregame press conference by congratulating one of the NBA's all-time greats ahead of the Warriors' matchup against the Mavericks in Dallas. 

"Before we start I just want to congratulate Dirk [Nowitzki] on his jersey retirement," Kerr said. "He's one of my favorite players of all time."

Nowitzki, who retired after the 2018-19 season, is getting his No. 41 jersey retired following the Warriors-Mavericks game. Dallas head coach Jason Kidd, who wore a Dirk jersey during his pregame press conference, said there will be a statue in Nowitzki's honor outside of the American Airlines Center. 

Kerr's praise for the former Mavs star only continued from there. 

"Played against him for several years. I retired in '03 and he had been in the league for several years at that point. Just an incredible player, an incredible ambassador for the game," Kerr said. "Somebody who the whole league respected and the greatest international player of all time. 

"Beyond that, his humility the way he carried himself -- the fact that he played for one franchise, it all sums up an incredibly special career. It really is meaningful for us as an organization to be part of this tonight. We're really excited."

Warriors stars Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala also sent their congratulations to Nowitzki, along with Golden State center Kevon Looney.

Nowitzki, a German native, spent his entire 21-year NBA career with the Mavs. He was a 14-time All-Star, was named All-NBA 12 times and was the 2006-07 NBA MVP. The smooth-shooting 7-footer also was named Finals MVP in 2011 when he outplayed LeBron James and the Miami Heat to bring the Mavs their first championship. 

Along with averaging 20.7 points per game for his career, he also scored 31,560 points for his career. That's the sixth-most in NBA history and by far the most ever by an international player.

For as great as he was on the court, Kerr will never forget his brief time connecting with Nowitzki off it, as well as coaching him in the All-Star Game in the 2014-15 season.

"My favorite Dirk story came after I retired [from playing]," Kerr said. "I was working at TNT and worked an All-Star Game and he was there with Steve Nash. They were both playing in the game and I ended up at the same bar as Steve and Dirk and hung out with both of them for the night, and was just blown away by the man. Just the humility, the humor, the sense of gratitude for his life. Just a wonderful human being, it was great to get to know him a little bit." 

RELATED: Kerr explains expected plan for Klay's minutes upon return

Kerr has been around his fair share of all-time greats, but he'll never forget coaching Nowitzki, Tim Duncan and others in the 2015 NBA All-Star Game.

"We had a lot of fun," Kerr said. "We were all making fun of Dirk and Tim Duncan for how old they were, so we had a little fun with that. 

"I don't know him well, but getting to know him a little bit during those moments after I had already retired were really special."

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