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Culture

Riding the Nowitzki Wave into the World Championships

The German national team is playing down their chance at this week's World Championships in America. But NBA star Dirk Nowitzki, his team and German broadcasters are hoping for more.

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Nowitzki bodies up against US Jermain O'Neal

They’re young and hungry, but they’re probably not going to go too far.

The summary judgement on Germany’s basketball team going into this week’s World Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana is that the national team could make it to the quarterfinals of the tournament, if that.

That doesn’t stop Dallas Mavericks star and German basketball darling Dirk Nowitzki from dreaming of more.

“Turkey has a good shot, and Spain plays a good game, but we also have a chance,” he said in a recent interview. “Behind the favorites Yugoslavia and the USA there are good chances for many teams to go far.”

The host USA, though fielding a team bereft of the NBA’s biggest names, is still by and large the favorite in these championships. Sixteen teams will be competing for the championship trophy in the 11-day tournament, which began Thursday.

Germany, which placed a surprising fourth in the European Championships last year, will face US, China and Albania in the first round.

Big trouble in big china

The German side needs a win in their opening game against China and their 7’6” (2.2 meter) center Yao Ming, who has earned the respect of his soon-to-be NBA colleagues. Ming, who signed with the Houston Rockets in the offseason, scored 13 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked six shots against the USA in a preliminary game.

The German sides hopes to exploit China’s heavy reliance on Ming for a win. A win is also expected against Albania. Should the team net two victories, the pressure will be off going into the final game of the round against heavily-favored US.

Germany displayed fight in their final warm-up game, against the USA, in Portland last week.

Though losing 91-73, the Germans were encouraged by their tough play and the realization that the USA was vulnerable.

“We played against the best players in the world and realized that we can play with them,“ he said. “We found out that they’re only human.”

The Nowitzki basketball boom

The quote featured prominently in Germany’s sports pages, which provide blanket coverage of the Würzberg native’s NBA games, his off-court charity work and salary ($90 million over six years).

The 23-year-old has been credited with providing a boost to German basketball, which has a fairly competitive national league featuring players from all over Europe and the US.

The television channel ARD recently pushed through last-minute negotiations to carry this week’s world championship games live, even though they start past midnight, local time.

“Basketball has, through, Dirk Nowitzki, gone through a boom – especially among our youth,” Hagen Bossdorf, ARD’s sport director, told reporters. “That’s why we’re hoping for good ratings, even at night.”

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