In the final seconds of Monday’s Mavericks-Clippers game, with the score decided, Los Angeles head coach Doc Rivers called a timeout so that the home crowd could give Dirk Nowitzki a proper ovation in what could be his last game in the city.
It was a lovely gesture for a basketball icon, and all I could think was, It’d be so great if Dirk didn’t actually retire and played one more year.
The 40-year-old Nowitzki, who signed a one-year deal with the Mavs last summer but has never explicitly said he will retire at the end of it, has nonetheless received a season-long appreciation tour. Even after last night, when the cheers in the arena suggested that those fans would never see him on the court again, he was non-committal:
“They’re making the decision for me, I guess,” Nowitzki said with a smile on his face.
Everyone around the NBA has assumed that just because he’s ancient and Dallas now has young European phenom Luka Doncic, Dirk will go quietly into that good night. Nowitzki has settled any lingering feelings with Dwyane Wade, who actually did say he’d retire at the end of the season. The two also earned spots in this year’s all-star game and received a little ceremony. Even when the Mavs are on the road, fans go nuts over his scant minutes: At the 114-90 embarrassment of the Knicks on Jan. 30 at Madison Square Garden, the crowd was loudest for Nowitzki as he went off—“went off”—for 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field. (Little did they know what would happen the next day.)
All of these are reasons why Nowitzki, at the end of this season, should say he wants to come back. Let’s do it once more, with no feeling. Force Doc Rivers to give you a second moment. Get a second framed All-Star jersey. Finally win that feud with Wade because he’s retired and can’t do anything about it. What’s everyone going to do, tell the greatest German basketball player of all time that he can’t keep playing? Adam Silver is powerless to this plan. Make him humble.
Fuck it up, Dirk. Fuck it all up.