“This is cute,” Dirk Nowitzki said after taking a seat on the modest stage in the backyard of The Wild Detectives Thursday night.
Fewer than 100 tickets were sold to a book presentation for the recently released English translation of The Great Nowitzki: Basketball and the Meaning of Life.
It was Nowitzki’s first time at the Bishop Arts bookstore/café. But author Thomas Pletzinger said he wrote part of the book here. Pletzinger first came to Dallas in 2012 to write a profile on Nowitzki for a German magazine. Nowitzki and his mentor, Holger Geschwinder, later agreed to let Pletzinger do the biography, and he spent eight years following the Big German.
Nowitzki, a Preston Hollow resident whose jersey the Dallas Mavericks retired in January, said he read the book when it first came out in German three years ago.
It begins with a description of his last game before retirement in 2019. He was reading it on a long plane ride and had taken the dust jacket off.
“I didn’t want them to see ‘The Great Nowitzki,'” he said. “I got super emotional at the beginning. That was probably my favorite part of the book, actually.”
Nowitzki answered several questions and signed books for everyone in attendance.
“Can you imagine you write a novel, and everyone wants the autograph of the main character?” Pletzinger said.
The event was organized by Deep Vellum Books and moderated by Zac Crain, author of I See You Big German: Dirk Nowitzki and What He Means to Dallas (and Me).
Here are a few highlights:
Nowitzki, always modest, didn’t like the title of the book at first: “You had to explain the whole ‘Great Gatsby’ thing to me,” he said.
What did he think of Dallas when he first arrived in 1998? “I didn’t know what to expect. I thought people were still riding around on horses here. Everything was new to me, but I loved it from day one, especially the people, who were so sweet to me and wanted me to succeed. They took me in right away, and I thought that was really special. The city has come such a long way in the past 20 years, with restaurants, museums. This is a vibrant, vibrant city now, and I couldn’t be happier.”
How the one-legged fadeaway developed: “It just kind of evolved. Holger’s philosophy is you have to know every shot in the book. If you get in a tough situation, you have to always react and know a shot that can get you out of any situation, so we used to practice the hook shot; we used to practice runners. We put all that in the repertoire, but I never really used it much. Later on in my career … I wanted to get a shot where I could get a little look up. I started shooting it more and more, and the rest is history. It wasn’t really something that Holger and I planned. It just kind of happened, and I liked it, and it was easy for me.”
On seeing that fadeaway called “The Dirk”: “It’s super cool to see. When I’m watching a game at home, and somebody shoots it, and the commentator right away goes, ‘Oh, he shot The Dirk,’ I’m on the couch, elbowing my kids … I’m honored that guys think this is a good weapon and a good shot to have in their repertoire.”
How is he enjoying retirement? “Spending a lot of time with the family and traveling. My wife is half Kenyan and half Swedish. I’m German, so we have family all over the world. We get to pick up and travel whenever we want. And you know, just learning different things. Having time for my foundations, the one here and in Germany. I actually see my parents a lot more often than I did during my career … And just doing the day-to-day stuff with the kids. The youngest is 5; the oldest is 8. They all started playing sports, and I take them to tennis. I take them to soccer. Just being the regular dad, and that’s super fun.”
What is his advice for an 8-year-old who’s just starting to play basketball? “Just have fun at the beginning. I wouldn’t specialize too soon in one sport. I played two or three sports at the same time until I was a teenager. I don’t love all this stuff that at 5 years old, you train eight times a week. Try all sorts of stuff.”
His career in retrospect: “I was a kid when I first got here. My English wasn’t great. I was super nervous. I didn’t know whether I was going to make it in this league or in this city. And then 20 something years later, I was the old guy, but it went quick. Even though I played 21 years, it flies by. I was always the German wunderkind and the next thing I knew, I turned 30, and I’m one of the older guys. Then the next thing you know I’m 40. I tell these young players now to really soak it all in and enjoy it all, because it’s really over before you know it.”
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