Dirk scored his 30,000th point on a shot that he’d been making his whole career, a shot that made him famous for its high degree of difficulty and how easily he took it. The shot looked like this —
— and as soon as he hit it, everyone in the city of Dallas lost their minds. It was the same shot that he took to hit 20,000, actually; the only difference is that this fade was over Larry Nance instead of Lamar Odom.
That’s a good reason to go nuts as a fan of Dallas, or Dirk, or just big numbers. 30,000 points is a summit that only the most accomplished and enduring of basketball players could ever hope to climb. Even Shaq, the player right behind Dirk on the NBA all-time scoring list, is 1,404 points short of the mark. For Dirk to reach it is just another jewel in the crown of the Best European Player of All Time, and one that closes out his career on a positive note despite the struggles of the Mavs this season. And though he insists that he won’t retire “unless something drastic happens“, anyone who keeps up with the NBA knows that his days are numbered. It’s for that reason that Dirk surpassing 30K is all the more special; we know it’s only a matter of time before that enduring fadeaway is gone for good.
That was on the mind of every fan in the building last night, or at least it should have been. Nowitzki has been the biggest star in Dallas for his entire career, sometimes dragging the team to relevancy with Rick Carlisle’s help. An expansion team that struggled for a time before Jason Kidd’s arrival, the Mavericks executed a terrific draft-day heist that took Nowitzki from the Bucks and a certain bench point guard by the name of Steve Nash from the Suns. From then on, the Mavs were a force. Pick from any number of great Mavs moments — getting the number one seed and Dirk’s lone MVP in 2007, running and gunning with the early Nash-Finley-Nowitzki lineup, and defeating the Heatles in the 2011 Finals — and the German sensation has always been front and center.
You can just look at the crowd and understand what 30,000 means to everyone in the American Airlines Arena. Just look at Mark Cuban in the first picture:
This is significant because Mark Cuban is every Dallas fan but more vocal. (Also, think about it. Have you ever met a Dallas fan that wasn’t like Mark Cuban? No. Because most Dallas fans are just Cuban, but more Trump-enthusiastic.) The part I like most about this picture is that every part of Dallas fandom is captured. Look at the girl at the bottom center of the picture, staring up as that majestic German giant floats a sky-high shot towards the net. Dirk looks tall to me. Imagine how impossibly tall he looks from her height. It must be how Muggsy Bogues felt when he took that famous picture with Manute Bol. Now look at the man whose face is right at Dirk’s shooting hand, right in the upper left. He’s confident, self-assured, and every other emotion that someone who has seen a Dirk fade should be feeling. Look at the bald man in the bottom right. He’s sitting alongside this girl, and despite being at least 30 years her senior, carries the same face of silent wonder. This picture is a microcosm of everything Dirk has done in the NBA. It could be my favorite picture of the year.
Of course, what happened after the shot went down is also worth talking about. The stadium just erupted. People love to use that term for things like applauses after a politician has just told you something about the world, or for when a high schooler crosses some poor girl over and then pulls up for a jumper over her sprawled body. This is different. This was pure joy, but the joy of a crowd that had seen a man grow up in this town. There was no expectation of greatness, but he delivered a performance that brought viewers back to a better time.
Of course, it grew to utter pandemonium after Dirk followed that shot with a contested three, his unorthodox splayed-fingers three-point celebration flying up as the Lakers called for a timeout.
For one half of basketball, it was like the good old days in Dallas. Dirk went ballistic with 25 points on 9/12 shooting in the first two frames, and the Mavericks were blowing the visiting Lakers out of the water at the end of the second quarter, 70-52. Instead of being 10th-seeded 2017 Dallas, mired in nagging injuries and deflated expectations, they were the 2007 roster that rallied around a lanky German fellow wearing 41, the one with the unblockable shot. This season will not likely be a pleasant one for the Mavericks, but this game was a golden moment to hold onto.