On Oct. 30, the City of Dallas held the official naming ceremony for Nowitzki Way. The road, directly outside American Airlines Center, where Dirk played home games since 2001, had formerly been known as Olive Street.
But what's in a name? When word first started to spread about the possibility that Dirk would receive such a high honor, many thought something like 'Dirk Drive' or 'Dirk Fade Away' would be the name to go with. However, Dirk himself sees it differently.
»I wanted this to be the family name because I wanted them to be a part of this, too,« he said. »Starting from my parents and grandparents that helped raise me all the way down to the next Nowitzki generations that come, whether it’s my kids or grandkids or my wife or her relatives that come to town. I wanted it to be Nowitzki Way, for them to also be proud of what we’ve done in this city. And like I said, I’m proud of what I’ve done off the court (as much as I am) on it.«
The ceremony was emotional for Dirk, as well as for members of the Mavericks such as head coach Rick Carlisle and team owner Mark Cuban. But some of the most poignant words were spoken by Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson.
»Dirk captivated this city with his play on the court,« Johnson said. »We watched him grow – a bona fide legend of the game.That incredible run in 2011 is something that none of us who witnessed will ever forget. But Dirk is so much more than his achievements on the basketball court. I hope we will consider the whole person. Dirk is the real deal. He’s humble, dedicated, authentic, gracious and very, very kindhearted.«
Dirk, similarly, said he viewed the honor as something bigger than basketball.
»Of course I invested a lot of time in my craft and I wanted to be the best player I could be, make the city proud on the court and entertain them – even help them through difficult times with entertainment. But to me, and I learned early on, it’s also about the community. It’s about making a difference, improving lives.«
Dirk's relationship with the City of Dallas began in 1998, when the Mavericks acquired him on draft night. But it really took off when Mark Cuban bought the team in 2000 and the Mavs began making the playoffs season after season through the 2000s and 2010s. Nowitzki reached the pinnacle in 2011, delivering the franchise its first championship, but before that he appeared in the Finals in 2006 and won the MVP award in 2007. Through all the victories and even the defeats, he always repaid Mark Cuban's loyalty to him with loyalty to the franchise and to the city that embraced him when he was just a rookie.
»Dirk was that rare superstar who graciously allowed us to participate in both his great triumphs and great challenges,« Rick Carlisle said. »And he showed us that vulnerability is not a weakness.«