Dirk Nowitzki's spectacular performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals not only proves that he is the most skilled big man in NBA history, but also reveals one thing that many may be afraid to come to grips with. The NBA's best player is European and hails from Wurzburg, Germany.
Over Dirk's 13-year career he has averaged 23 points to go along with just under nine rebounds during the regular season and just under 27 points and close to 11 boards during the playoffs. He has led Mark Cuban's franchise to 11 consecutive playoff appearances, is a 10-time NBA All-Star and is the only European player to be named the NBA's Most Valuable Player.
Over the years skeptics have always praised Nowitzki's offensive repertoire but countered his offensive praise by criticizing him for lacking on defense and on the boards. Some critics have even labeled Dirk as being "soft", a label that many Euros are stamped with when they enter the NBA. But in actuality, the only thing that Dirk was missing was a consistent low-post game that would enable him to go inside-out, which he has found during this year's NBA Playoffs.
If you're the Lakers and you send Pau Gasol at the the "German Machine," he will use his quickness to drive by him. If your the Thunder and assign Kevin Durant, Serge Imbaka or Nick Collison with the task of covering him, he will use his size to back them down and shoot over them. No matter who is defending him, it will be an instant mismatch because either the defender will be too small to cover the 7-footer or too big to cover the 7-footer. Either way you will have to pick your poison, which is an opposing coaches worst nightmare.
I've always had debates about what if there was a 7-footer that could light it up from behind the arc, hit mid-range jumpers, handle the ball and make passes like a guard, while still taking up space like a true big man in the lane. An athlete with such skills, along with a burning desire to win, would revolutionize the game of basketball because he would truly symbolize a player that has no weaknesses. Well ladies and gentlemen that question has now been answered with one word. Dirk.
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