Welcome to the NBA 75, The Athletic’s countdown of the 75 best players in NBA history, in honor of the league’s diamond anniversary. We’ll unveil a brand new participant on the listing each weekday via Feb. 18, culminating with the person picked by a panel of The Athletic NBA workers members as the best of all time.

You would possibly assume the hero’s journey sounds nice. You’re touring someplace, studying one thing, attending to be the nice man the whole time. Everyone watching is aware of how your story ends. That the setbacks are non permanent, the tribulations are progress. But the hero doesn’t know that when the story’s being written. The journey have to be endured.

Dirk Nowitzki’s second profession — the eight seasons he performed after his 2011 championship — was as a universally beloved paragon of the game, somebody whose affect was more and more evident each time huge males stepped again for 3s, whose loyalty to the franchise buying and selling for him grew with every discounted contract he signed. In his ultimate season, opposing followers chanted his identify, and rival coaches stopped mid-game to steer standing ovations. It was the validation he earned for 21 years — nevertheless it wasn’t at all times this fashion.

On June 2, 2011, Nowitzki stood straight, his fingers holding the basketball, his again dealing with the basket, his eyes glancing to the shot clock on the ground’s different finish. But his shoulders confirmed no signal of the load they carried, the years he had been perceived and doubted.



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