At the appointed moment, Dirk Nowitzki and his 7-year-old son, Max, pulled a lever, which triggered the lifting of a mammoth cylindrical canvas.
Several hundred onlookers in American Airlines Center’s South Plaza on this chilly Christmas morning turned toward the rising canvas and locked gazes upon what was underneath: A glimmering statue of Nowitzki, the greatest Dallas Maverick.
Max didn’t budge, neck craned, eyes transfixed on the statue as the crowd erupted in a mixture of gasps and cheers. And what did Max’s Papa think?
“It was emotional,” Nowitzki said. “It felt like the sun was just perfect, shining right on it.”
Led by Luka Doncic’s 32 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, the Mavericks defeat the Lakers, 124-115. Christian Wood (30 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, four steals) and Tim Hardaway Jr (26 points, six rebounds, six 3PM) added a combined 56 points in the victory. LeBron James led all scorers with 38 points, six rebounds and five assists, his 7th-straight 30+ point game, for the Lakers in a losing effort. The Mavericks improve to 18-16 on the season, while the Lakers fall to 13-20.
As expected, the statue’s pose is that of Nowitzki shooting his signature one-legged fade away, with his uniform, Nike shoes and shaggy haircut in the image of 2010-2011 NBA championship season Nowitzki.
Sunday’s 20-minute “All Four One” ceremony and statue unveiling, preceded a victory by the Mavericks over the Lakers in American Airlines Center.
Nowitzki, the sixth leading scorer in NBA history, announced his retirement on April 9, 2019. Since then he’s had his No. 41 jersey retired by the Mavericks last January and the street that his statue faces was renamed Nowitzki Way in the fall of 2019.
On the night of Nowitzki’s retirement announcement, Mavericks governor Mark Cuban promised to commission “the biggest, most badass statue ever.” During Sunday’s ceremony, Cuban joked about how often Nowitzki has been feted, teasing “Is there going to be a Nowitzki Garden?”
Then Cuban turned toward Nowitzki and became emotional.
“But I did make you a promise,” he said. “And it’s a promise that gives me joy to deliver on because you earned it. You earned it from every fan of the Dallas Mavericks. You earned it from every fan of Dirk Nowitzki.”
The statue, designed and molded in white bronze by Chicago-area master sculptor Omri Amrany, was more than two years in the making.
Combined, the statue and its base are nearly 24 feet tall and weigh more than 9,000 pounds.
“You want to adopt every story to its contents, in the personality, in the history,” Amrany said of the final product. “And it’s all boiled down to one piece of bronze that doesn’t move forever.”
Attending the ceremony were several of Nowitzki’s former Mavericks teammates, including current Dallas coach Jason Kidd. Current Mavericks players, including Nowitzki’s face-of-the-franchise heir apparent Luka Doncic, gathered next to the staging area.
“I’m just happy for him,” Doncic said. “He deserves all these things that are happening to him. It was amazing. That statue looks amazing and he deserves it.”
Most poignant to Nowitzki was that his parents Jorg and Helga and sister Silke made the trip from the family’s native Germany; they sat on the first row near Nowitzki’s wife Jessica and their three children Malaika, Max and Morris.
“I think what makes this so special is we have three generations of Nowitzki’s here and this thing will be here long after we are gone and other generations come here and be proud.”
The eyes of Nowitzki, 44, welled during a video explaining how the statue was made, when Amrany predicted that the work will exist for 500 years.
“Maybe Google is already [gone] by that point, but people will look it up. “Who is this guy? What did this guy do?’ “ Nowitzki said. “I think that’s what’s so cool about a sculpture like this, that it lives for eternity.
“Nowitzki’s down the line, hopefully at some point, wherever they may be in the world, can come here and see this thing. I think that’s the most emotional part.”
Nowitzki’s entire 21-season career was spent as a Maverick. That remains an NBA record by anyone playing on only one team.
Part of his greatness was his ability to make clutch baskets with game is on the line. It turns out that Nowitzki, even in retirement, once more delivered near the final buzzer.
He was asked to come up with a motto that would be inscribed on the base of the statue, beneath his name. Finally, when the statue nearly was complete, he delivered the perfect answer.
“I just sat down and thought, ‘What do people associate with you here in Dallas?’ “ Nowitzki said. He boiled it down to his fade away jumper and his 21 seasons of loyalty.
He came up with “Loyalty never fades away.”
“It’s just a fun fact that it happens to be 21 letters; that was more luck than really designed,” he said. “I just wanted to think of something that people associate me with here and in my new home, and I felt it fit perfect.”
Kidd in 2011 helped Nowitzki win that championship that eluded both of them well into their 30s.
“I think the 21 letters for what he [stood for] in his career, it’s just remarkable,” Kidd said. “Then to be able to be around him, this is just another day for him. That’s just who he is.
“He doesn’t walk around with security. He’s just a normal guy who will take his kids to play tennis. He’s just one of the fellas, so it’s really cool to see.”
Throughout his career, and in retirement, Nowitzki has shied from the limelight. Not surprisingly, he was sheepish Sunday as nice things were said about him during the ceremony.
“There’s been so many amazing things coming my way,” he said. “And I’m very, very humbled and appreciative of all that and, but I’m also glad you know, now it’s hopefully all behind us.”
Well, not all. The biggest honor of all remains. Last week he was nominated for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball of Fame. It’s a certainty that he will be a first-ballot honoree and be inducted as part of the Class of 2023 next August.