Dirk Nowitzki or Larry Bird? Another classic example of comparing eras, where comparison really isn't possible.
On one hand, you have the uber-physical and fundamentally sound years of the '80s which rejuvenated a struggling NBA. And on the other hand, you have the modern NBA where it's more about finesse, isolation plays and endorsement deals.
To be clear, comparing these two greats is like comparing a million dollar diamond to a million dollar bar of solid gold. You really can't go wrong either way.
While Larry Bird has multiple championship rings to solidify his status as an all-time great, Nowitzki's uncanny ability to score is second to none. His seven-foot frame combined with his shooting technique is indefensible, being that he releases his shot above his head.
The biggest reason the name Bird comes up when talking about Nowitzki and vice versa, is merely because of the color of their skin.
Let's take a trip back in time to where both of these guys started setting themselves apart from their peers as young aspiring basketball greats.
While "The Hick from French Lick" grew up on a farm in a very rural environment, he started setting himself apart as a sophomore in high school, and eventually left Spring Valley High School as the all-time leading scorer. Now you tell me what the competition could possibly have been like in the early '70s in an area that had more farm animals than the human population.
Nowitzki's teen years were spent competing against grown men, being that he turned pro as a 16-year-old, playing for Germany's second-division team DJK Wuerzburg. He was still able to set himself apart from the competition which eventually earned him an invitation to the ever so prestigious Nike Hoop Summit.
Neither young bright stars Rashard Lewis nor Al Harrington could contain Nowitzki as he dominated USA's finest leading the International side with 33 points and 14 rebounds.
Sure, Bird led Indiana State to a 33-1 record in his senior season at ISU. And yes, of course he left ISU as the NCAA's fifth-leading scorer at the time. But how can you compare the talent and level of competition of the mid-'70s Missouri Valley Conference, to that of modern day AAU competitions and exposure of international talent that face off?
From Nike Hoop Summits to Adidas ABCD camps the competition is fierce and only the best end up on top.
Nowitzki was primed for the success he is currently having. And he has Holger Geschwinder to thank for it. Geschwinder laid the foundation for Nowitzki's yellow brick road. All Dirk had to do was stay on course.
Now, it is well known what kind of success Bird had in his legendary NBA career. His impact on the league was felt immediately. During his rookie year he helped flip the Celtics from a 29-53 record, to an NBA-best 61-21 record.
He was elected to the All-Star team in each of his full 12 seasons that he played. He was elected league MVP three consecutive years, a feat only matched by Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.
He has garnered three championship rings while winning two finals MVP awards. For his career, Bird averaged 24.3 points, 10 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game all while shooting 50 percent from the floor.
In the modern NBA, where athletes are stronger, bigger, faster, more athletic and just plain better than 30 years ago and evolving as we speak, Nowitzki has career averages of 23 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
How about Dirk in the clutch?
His playoff stats put him in elite company. He is averaging 25.6 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. Numbers only matched by greats such as Hakeem Olajuwon, Bob Petit and Elgin Baylor.
In elimination games he is averaging 28.4 points with 12.2 rebounds a game, while having scored 30 or more points in 13 of such games which is second-most in NBA history (Jerry West: 14).
He simply does things that no one else can do. He is the only player to record 150 three-pointers and 100 blocks in a single season.
Now for those who say Bird is better than Nowitzki, all usually have the same argument. Bird's three championship rings compared to Dirk's zero. Well, let's look at the supporting cast, shall we.
The three championship team rosters with which Bird won featured players such as Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson, Bob McAdoo, Nate Archibald and Bill Walton. Now what do all of these players have in common? That's right, they are all Hall of Fame inductees.
Now what kind of help has Dirk had? Potential Hall of Famer Steve Nash? Sure. Michael Finley. Eh. A Jason Kidd who, due to the law of age, has been on a steady decline?
The choice has to be pretty clear. Dirk Nowitzki may be a seven-footer but he is definitely not your ordinary lanky, awkward, uncoordinated traditional center. He is a point forward with indefensible moves.
Put a big on him and he'll make you pay from the outside. Put a quicker perimeter guy on him, and he will eat him up inside using his wide array of moves. He will post you up, shoot one-footed fadeaways off the backboard or sink one three-pointer after another if you dare him. Pick your poison
With all due respect to one of the NBA's finest, Mr. Larry Bird, who was in a class of his own. The title of "The White Mamba" between these two, has got to go to Dirk Nowitzki.
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