Emotional tribute for Nowitzki on tap
The Dallas Mavericks are describing it as a nightlong party to celebrate Dirk Nowitzki’s historic 21st season, but even the guest of honor concedes that it sounds a lot like a retirement party.
Not that Dirk Nowitzki knows all of the night’s planned details. He has made it a point to not know them. He’s planning to prepare for tonight’s home finale against Phoenix as if it’s any other game, rather than, potentially, the last time he’ll play at American Airlines Center.
“It’s going to be weird approaching it,” he said. “But I’m still going to do my same routine.”
The routine will be the easy part because he’s been doing variations of it for 21 seasons, all with the Mavericks. The game itself, however, will be anything but ordinary, with the Mavericks planning surprises, mostly video tributes, throughout the game.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban isn’t divulging any of the surprises, but he advises fans to arrive early and, above all, stay late.
Following the game, the court will be cleared, players and coaches will go to the locker room, cool off, then return to the court. A microphone will be brought out to the court, enabling coach Rick Carlisle, Cuban, then Nowitzki, to address fans.
Will Cuban be able to hold his emotions together?
“No, I won’t be able to,” he said. “But that’s OK; I’m an emotional guy. It won’t be easy. I know for Dirk it won’t be easy, either. But Father Time is undefeated, for all of us.”
As for fans, many of whom have paid Mavericks regularseason-record prices on the secondary market for the privilege attending the game?
“We should be giving out boxes of tissues,” Cuban said. “With Dirk’s face on them.”
For the 1,666th time in his career (1,521 regular-season, 145 playoff), Nowitzki will try to put on his game face and maintain it for as long and steadfastly as possible.
He said he will “go to the game like it’s a regular game and then kind of be surprised by everything and anything that’s going to happen. But I’ve still got to focus on my game, on my shots and enjoy competing one last time, maybe.”
Meanwhile, all around him, the party will ensue, all evening, starting at 5:30, when fans are encouraged to arrive and walk the blue carpet on Victory Plaza, listen to music, get their faces painted.
Once inside AAC, every fan will receive limited edition Dirk t-shirts, a commemorative game ticket and a Dirk Build-A-Head. And, of course, the Dirkburger and Dirkwurst have been brought back to concession stands.
“It’s going to be fun,” Nowitzki said. “I’m going to make it fun. I’m sure there’s some stuff planned, but I try to stay away from it, obviously. I don’t want to know too much.
“I want to still focus on the game and hopefully have fun. Have fun competing and I’m going to go really from there. Everything else will be a surprise to me, as well, but hopefully enjoy it. This is what it’s all about.”
Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki could possibly play his final home game at American Airlines Center.