Column: 41.21.1

Senior Alexis Russell reflects on the retirement of Mavericks MVP Dirk Nowitzki

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Column: 41.21.1

Senior Alexis Russell was in attendance on Tuesday night when Dirk Nowitzki played his final game at the American Airlines Center.

Senior Alexis Russell was in attendance on Tuesday night when Dirk Nowitzki played his final game at the American Airlines Center.

Shae Daugherty

Senior Alexis Russell was in attendance on Tuesday night when Dirk Nowitzki played his final game at the American Airlines Center.

Shae Daugherty

Shae Daugherty

Senior Alexis Russell was in attendance on Tuesday night when Dirk Nowitzki played his final game at the American Airlines Center.

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I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry. I sobbed. But can you blame me? Dirk Nowitzki has been a Maverick longer than I have even been alive. For as long as I could remember, there were no Mavs without Dirk, and there was no Dirk without the Mavs. It’s all I’ve ever known. For my entire life, those two things have been inextricably intertwined. But now this era has come to an end. His body couldn’t quite keep up with his heart.

Dirk walked off the court for the final time last night in San Antonio. On Tuesday, he announced his retirement in front of a capacity crowd of 21,041 in the American Airlines Center, including me. I saw it coming, of course. He’s 40 years old; most guys hang it up by then.

But when he actually said those words, that it was indeed his final home game, it finally clicked. There were no more records to be broken or milestones to pass. His point total would stay frozen forever: 31,560. The AAC, virtually sold out that night, will probably never be that packed or get that loud again for a long time.

Dirk is quite literally the best thing to happen to Dallas sports in this century. He deserves a 41-foot statue made of pure gold right smack dab in front of the AAC.”

— Alexis Russell

The amount of love and appreciation in that arena that night was unlike anything I had ever seen. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. And it was all for him.

Whether you’re his teammate or his rival, there is no hating Dirk Nowitzki. He’s a man of the people. Every player who has ever come through Dallas always has amazing things to say about him. After Tuesday’s game, five of Dirk’s basketball idols took the court.

Hall-of-famers Scottie Pippen, Larry Bird, and Charles Barkley all dwelled on the fact that Dirk had left this game better than he had found it. That his dedication to the Mavericks and the city of Dallas was unmatched. That there will never be anyone like him, not in Dallas, not anywhere. I couldn’t agree more.

The Mavs got lucky with #41. Who knew that long and lanky European kid with a stupid haircut would end up becoming a 14-time All-Star, a league MVP, a Finals MVP, and, most importantly, an NBA Champion. His determination to bring the city of Dallas a championship was unwavering, through the good and the bad.

Dirk is quite literally the best thing to happen to Dallas sports in this century. He deserves a 41-foot statue made of pure gold right smack dab in front of the AAC. And his impact on the game of basketball itself has been profound. He was the first 7-foot sharp-shooter the league had ever seen. He coined that classic fadeaway that so many players have tried to implement into their game. But, no one can do it like Dirk can. No one will ever be able to do it like Dirk can.I grew up going to Mavs games. I had every name on that 2011 championship roster memorized. I will never forget my first time sitting courtside, I was just ten years old. But it’s hard to say if I’ll ever go to another Mavs game again. It just won’t be the same without him.

Since the beginning of this season in October, I’ve had April 9th in the back of my head. Prior to the game, I didn’t quite know what to think. Of course I didn’t want him to retire. No one ever wants to see their favorite player hang it up for the last time. It’s heartbreaking.

But when he actually said those words, that it was indeed his final home game, it finally clicked. ”

— Alexis Russell

Yet, I don’t think I’d have it any other way. He retired on his own terms in the place that he has called home for the last 21 years, surrounded by 20,000 people who absolutely adore him. It was after Dirk walked off the court after saying his final goodbye that I realized that this wasn’t the end of Dirk Nowitzki. He wasn’t going anywhere.

He did more than play basketball for the city of Dallas. He changed it. Sure, my role model was a great basketball player, but I stand by the fact that he is an even better person. From the annual charity baseball games to the low-profile hospital visits on Christmas day, Dirk is a constant reminder that it’s bigger than basketball. And Dallas is his home.

So yes, I shed a few tears that night. I have no shame. Watching Dirk walk off that court for the final time was one of the most touching moments in my life. Pretty soon, his number will be retired and his jersey will be hanging in the rafters. Then will come the Hall of Fame induction. And who knows, he might just have a spot on the Mavs coaching staff one day.

Dirk’s legacy will live on way past the end of his basketball career. After all, you know what they say: heroes get remembered, but legends never die.

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