Attached to this post, you will see two pictures. One is of a basketball hoop in the driveway that I have literally spent thousands of hours in, and the other is of a poster that has hung in the same place in my room for roughly 12 years. Neither of these things probably mean anything to you, but if you know me, you know that they mean a great deal to me.
Dirk Nowitzki was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks on June 24, 1998, and was traded to the Dallas Mavericks that same night. This was roughly four months before I was born. Not a second of my life has gone by where Dirk has not been a forward for the NBA team that plays its games roughly 40 minutes from my hometown. I have literally not known a life without Dirk being the centerpiece of the Mavericks.
It is now April 10, 2019. I am nearing the end of my sophomore year of college, and Dirk has officially reached the end of his NBA career. I understand that getting sentimental and emotional over sports can be real weird for some people, but just allow me to explain.
I have always been an incredibly anxious person. Growing up, just talking to people became almost like a nightmare. I was constantly in my head about the most minuscule things, and the thought of initiating any sort of conversation with people, in general, can still cause me to just freeze up. I love listening to people, but having full-length conversations has generally proven to be difficult for me.
But, there’s something about basketball that completely relinquishes every anxiety that I have. Every time I step onto that driveway, or any sort of court, all my energy is focused on getting that round ball into the hoop. Fear, doubt, stress, anxiety, all of it fades into the background. Basketball has been a safe haven for me, and I have no idea what I would do without it.
The poster that you see here was purchased at a book fair (I think) around the year 2007. Admittedly, I don’t really have any basketball-related memories before that point in my life, except that I loved the sport and I thought Dirk looked really cool on the poster (which is just a fact). As I got a little older, I started to gravitate more and more towards him, but not simply because he was the star player on my favorite team. He was a tall, lanky white guy with messy hair. I was/am a tall, lanky white guy with messy hair. He had a more low-key personality off the court. I had/have a more low-key personality. He wasn’t really all that athletic for the majority of his career. Lord knows I have never been that great of an athlete. He was this larger-than-life figure that I looked up to, but I saw a lot of myself in him, even as a child. Naturally, I spent hours upon hours trying to perfect his moves (to the point of getting called “Baby Dirk” in middle school, perhaps my proudest moment lol).
More than that though, I got to build some level of confidence in myself because of what I could do on the court. I still was pretty bad at holding conversations, but if we walk onto the court or start talking about hoops, there was some sort of transformation inside me. I had this newfound boldness in me that I hadn’t seen anywhere else. It’s like basketball, along with sports in general, has this language that automatically brings people together. It’s so bizarre that you could have nothing in common with an individual, but the moment you two step out onto the court, you are connected. And for someone who always felt like he had trouble connecting with people because of anxiety, this was huge for me. I started to form real relationships. Ministry opportunities started to arise. Basketball has been steadily breaking down the walls of anxiety that I have, and Dirk is the main reason for that. I had somebody to look to when it came to my game, and that opened so many doors for me.
Even more than that though, Dirk has been an incredible role model off the court. We’ve entered an age in the NBA where players are constantly looking for how their organizations can serve them. It’s an era where if a player is unhappy with the service they are receiving from their team, they are encouraged to find a team that will give them what they want. While I understand where players are coming from (as organizations may strive to take advantage of their players), I think this “me-first” mentality can build a really toxic environment around your team, your organization, and even your city. I think when you look for how you can serve your team, on and off the court, you build such a tight bond with everyone around you, regardless of team success or individual accolades.
I think when you look for how you can serve your team, on and off the court, you build such a tight bond with everyone around you, regardless of team success or individual accolades.
Dirk has been an incredible example of a player with a “team-first” mindset. He has taken far too many pay cuts in an attempt to give the Mavericks more flexibility in signing bigger stars. He has done so much for the community of Dallas, including an annual celebrity baseball game that supports charity and dozens of visits to local children’s hospitals as “Uncle Dirk.” He even gave up his starting role this season so that younger players could flourish sooner.
If I’m being completely honest, I could talk about Dirk for ages, but I’m not going to do that (kinda already have lol). I will just leave with this: Thank you, Dirk. Thank you for giving me confidence where I had none. Thank you for being such an amazing role model for so many young kids like me growing up in North Texas. Thank you for beating Kobe, Kevin Durant, AND LeBron all in the same playoff run; that was sick.
Thank you for 21 incredible seasons.
Thank you, Dirk.
Written by Ryan (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!)
Thompson, Ryan. Thank You Dirk Post. Facebook, 10 Apr. 2019, 10:02 p.m., https://www.facebook.com/superzjryan. Accessed 12 Apr. 2019.