Germany's Dirk Nowitzki is being described as one of the best basketball players of all time after leading the NBA's Dallas Mavericks to their first championship in franchise history.
Nowitzki is at the pinnacle of his career with this victory
When Würzburg native Dirk Nowitzki's dreams of winning an NBA championship were finally realized on Sunday evening, he had to take a moment to pull himself together.
"I had to get away for a moment, be by myself for a couple of minutes and lay down," the Dallas Mavericks star said. "I cried for a second and got my composure before coming back out for the trophy presentation."
Just after the Mavericks pushed past the Miami Heat 105-95 to their first championship four games to two, the German giant strode off into the locker room. He then returned to see his team handed the finals trophy and to be crowned the 2011 Finals Most Valuable Player. Nowitzki is only the second European in history to be given the award.
"I still really can't believe it. We've worked so hard and so long for it," Nowitzki said. "It's been a great run. This feeling to be on the best team in the world is indescribable."
Praise all around
Although he got a slow start in Sunday's game, he was a force to be reckoned with throughout the finals, averaging 26.0 points per game and missing just one of 44 attempts at the free throw line.
The Mavericks and Nowitzki simply outplayed the Miami Heat
"I don't think there's any doubt after this series that Dirk has certainly earned the clout of being one of the all time great players," Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle said. "His versatility, how he does it in the clutch. I mean he goes 1 for 12 in the first half and in the second half he was absolute money. I'm really thrilled for him."
The Mavericks' win was sweet revenge for the team and for Nowitzki for their loss of the 2006 NBA Finals, which Miami took in six games. Five years ago the Heat's Dwyane Wade said it had been Nowitzki's lack of leadership that had cost Dallas the title. After this year's finals, Wade only had praise for Nowitzki.
"I think he's played awesome. Obviously Dirk, five years ago, it burned in him. He learned from that experience. Even though he was 1 for 12 in the first half, he came out and made big shots for his team. He kept being aggressive; he kept shooting. So there's no question he's been a great individual player and now that he's a champion, it goes without saying what it means for his career."
After 12 unfulfilled seasons in the NBA, this victory has cemented the 32-year-old's place in the pantheon of basketball greats, European or otherwise.
Author: Holly Fox (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Michael Lawton