Dallas Sports History: Dirk Passes Wilt

Dirk Nowitzki | Image by Tim Heitman / Stringer/Getty Images

This week’s moment in Dallas sports history feature looks back at an iconic feat of a beloved Dallas athlete, a fitting theme following the unveiling of the Mike Modano statue outside the American Airlines Center last weekend.

Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki was the first to have a statue at the PNC Plaza outside the arena, and this week in 2019, the face of the Mavericks’ franchise passed Basketball Hall-of-Famer Wilt Chamberlain for sixth all-time on the NBA’s career scoring list by scoring his 31,420th point early in an overtime loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

“It’s amazing,” Nowitzki told the media after the game. “Obviously, it’s been a long time coming this season — knowing, before the year, it was 200-something points — then there were times I thought, ‘I’m not going to make it,’ the way the season went with the injury and then coming off the injury super, super slow.”

“But the last couple weeks,” he continued. “I’ve felt better, and we’ve been playing better, and the team, obviously, has kept looking for me and kept telling me to shoot. I’m glad it’s over with now.”

The Mavericks were experiencing a down year as Nowitzki dealt with injuries, and the team stumbled to a 33-49 finish, good for second-to-last in the Western Conference, but the veteran provided one last memorable moment for the fans at the American Airlines Center as he passed the legendary Chamberlain on his second shot of the game.

“The other night, I couldn’t buy one down the stretch, so it was cool just to get it over with in my first two shots,” Nowitzki added.

Nowitzki would retire after the season and finished his career in sixth place on the all-time scoring list with 31,560 points — 732 points behind the great Michael Jordan for fifth.

The team unveiled a statue of Dirk in December 2022, depicting the German big man taking one of his iconic fadeaway jumpers. Nowitzki was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in August after a 21-year career in Dallas that included the franchise’s only NBA Championship.

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