The Dallas Mavericks titled Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center (AAC) “41 Forever.” The franchise honored Dirk Nowitzki’s extraordinary 21-year career, all with the Mavericks, before, during, and after their 99-82 upset win against the Western Conference-leading Golden State Warriors.
The arena’s concourse area was set up like a museum, showcasing special mementos belonging to Nowitzki. The collection included All-Star and Championship rings, game-worn jerseys, shoes, and other memorabilia from his historic career with the Dallas Mavericks.
At halftime, Nowitzki made an appearance on the court to a boisterous ovation from the sold-out crowd. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban joined him at halfcourt, where he presented a check addressed to Nowitzki’s foundation.
During a break in the action in the third quarter, a video made by the Golden State Warriors honoring Nowitzki was played. The footage included recorded messages from multiple Warriors, including Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green.
Following the game, the franchise raised a banner with Nowitzki’s No. 41 to the rafters amid pyrotechnics and confetti with not a dry eye in sight. The postgame ceremony included speeches by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, head coach Jason Kidd, and friends and family members of Nowitzki’s. A statue of his likeness was also unveiled on the court, to be dedicated in front of the AAC at a later date.
“You guys know how to do jersey retirement here in Dallas,” Silver said. “I’ve been to a bunch of them, but I’ve never seen one like this.”
“They love you here in Dallas, but they love you all over the world,” Silver said, turning to Nowitzki as he continued. “You’re a trendsetter in this league, 21 years with one team, never before been done in a league. A championship. A pioneer for international players.”
In Nowitzki’s speech prior to the unveiling of the banner, he thanked the “pillar” that supported him for all 21 seasons in Dallas – the fans.
“This pillar always gave me a warm welcome when I got here, and this pillar always wanted me to succeed and always pushed me and gave me the strength to work hard and motivated me,” Nowitzki said.
“But what I appreciate most was this pillar supported me during the tough, tough playoff times and playoff losses. You know what, that pillar is you. Thank you.”
Also joining Nowitzki on the court were his wife Jessica and their three children, Dirk’s mentor, Holger Geschwindner, and seven Mavericks’ 2011 NBA championship team members. A video montage showed highlights of some of the greatest moments in Nowitzki’s career.
Current Mavericks coach Jason Kidd was a member of the 2011 championship team. He spoke on behalf of the entire title-winning team.
“You have set the standard for what it means to work and to win,” Kidd said. “On behalf of the championship team, we want to say ‘Thank you, thank you for you being you.'”
Kidd was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2018. Nowitzki will undoubtedly join him there the first year he is eligible to be inducted in 2023.
Current Maverick players quickly showered after the game to make it back to the court on time for the video montages and banner’s unveiling.
“Just an amazing night, a night you’ll never forget,” said 22-year-old Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic, who is seen as the heir apparent to Nowitzki. “Obviously the game, the Warriors are one of the best teams in the world right now and afterward was even more special. To be in the front row to see that, it was special.”
“Especially that video, when they were winning the championship they won in 2011.” Doncic continued, “it was amazing to see. That’s what I want to do one day. I hope it happens, but everything that happens for [Nowitzki], he deserves.”
No honor is enough for Nowitzki, who already has a street named after him, Nowitzki Way, that passes to the south of the AAC. Nowitzki ranks No. 6 all-time in NBA career scoring with 31,560 points. He led the franchise to both of its NBA Finals appearances and its only championship win in 2011. Nowitzki ranks first all-time in Mavericks franchise history in 11 statistical categories, including points, three-pointers, rebounds, and blocks.
Nowitzki’s No. 41 is the fourth to be retired in Mavericks history, joining fellow team legends Derek Harper (No.12), Rolando Blackman (No. 22), and Brad Davis (No. 15).
Davis was the first Maverick ever to have his jersey retired and was in the building Wednesday night.
“Dirk took this franchise to another level, on and off the court,” Davis said. “He just really stands for what the Dallas Mavericks are all about.”