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Nowitzki Named German Flag-Bearer in Olympic Opener

NBA star Dirk Nowitzki will join an elite group of athletes chosen to carry the German flag during the parade of 205 nations at the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing's National Stadium.

Dirk Nowitzki with the Olympic rings shaved into his haircut

Nowitzki will be the first basketball player to carry the German flag at an opening ceremony

Dirk Nowitzki, one of the stars of American professional basketball, will be Germany's flag-bearer at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, the German National Olympic Committee (DOSB) announced Wednesday, Aug. 6.

Germany's chef de mission in Beijing, Michael Vesper, told the DPA news agency that Nowitzki was chosen because he represents the Olympic idea like no other athlete.

"It has been a dream of Dirk Nowitzki for years to be at the Olympics," he added. "This dream has now become reality."

Competing at the Olympics won't be the only first for the 30-year-old born in the Bavarian city of Wuerzburg. He is also the first basketball player to carry the German flag at an Olympics, succeeding show jumper Ludger Beerbaum (2004), kayak canoe racer Birgit Fischer (2000) and fencer Arnd Schmitt (1996).

Nowitzki said competing at an Olympic Games is something that has motivated him since a very young age.

"On Friday [at the opening ceremony], I will experience something astonishing," Nowitzki said at a press conference on Wednesday. "I never thought I would be chosen to carry the flag but maybe it's happened because a lot of athletes identify with me."

The opposition

Fabian Hambuechen of Germany performs on the parallel bars

Gymnast Fabian Hambuchen was the Committee's first choice but he declined the offer

Birgit Fischer, an eight-time Olympic gold medalist who retired after the Athens Games four years ago, was critical when it was first suggested Nowitzki, one of the biggest earners in the NBA, might carry the flag as, in her eyes, he did not represent one of Germany's traditional Olympic sports.

Gymnast Fabian Hambuchen, the world high-bar champion, had been the German Olympic Committee's first choice to be their flag-bearer but he declined the offer because his event takes place on Saturday.

German basketball returns to the Olympics

Dallas Mavericks forward Nowitzki played a key role in ensuring Germany clinched the final qualifying place on offer in the 12-team line-up for these Games by scoring 32 points in a 96-82 victory over Puerto Rico in July. That win saw Germany into their first Olympic basketball tournament since 1992.

The team was also aided by Los Angeles Clippers center Chris Kaman who, courtesy of his great-grandparents, became a naturalized German citizen at the start of July. Despite not speaking a world of German at the time, Kaman played his part against Puerto Rico by scoring 10 points with 12 rebounds.

The Dallas Mavericks star last year became the first player from Europe to win the NBA's prestigious Most Valuable Player award. He led Germany to second place at the 2005 European championships and to third place at the 2002 worlds.

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