By Eurohoops team/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Dirk Nowitzki is one of a kind and he received a one-of-a-kind honor. Nowitzki became the first European legend whose jersey is retired by his national team. He accepted it with grace as always on the opening day of the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 in Cologne as the German Basketball Federation (DBB) retired his number 14.
“This is a huge honor. I always loved playing for the national team and I always gave my all,” Nowitzki, himself the official FIBA EuroBasket 2022 ambassador, said.
“Nearly the entire team from 2002 is here. That’s important and I thank them for always accepting me for how I am. I respect them and all my former teammates. Without them, nothing would have been possible.”
Nowitzki also thanked Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who was also present at the ceremony.
“Thanks for coming all this way. It means a lot. You always supported me in playing every summer. You knew it was important for me to represent my country and I really appreciate that” Nowitzki said.
“I would like to thank all of you, the fans. It was for me an unforgettable journey. So many of you traveled to big events and supported us. And you always supported us in games here. It was an unforgettable journey with you and I want to thank you.”
Nowitzki played in 153 international games for Germany, guiding the team to second place at the EuroBasket 2005 and third place at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2002. In both cases, he was the MVP.
The Wurzburg native also led the Dallas Mavericks to their only NBA title in 2011. Some of Nowitzki’s greatest moments on the international stage were hitting the final shot in the EuroBasket 2005 Semi-Finals against Spain, scoring 47 points versus Angola at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2006 as well as being the flag bearer for the German Olympic team at the Beijing Games in 2008.
“Dirk, your exceptional talent and work ethic have offered us unique moments in world basketball. We have all admired the player wearing the number 14 jersey for Germany,” said FIBA President Hamane Niang, who was on hand for the ceremony in Cologne. “You were a true leader for your team and a great inspiration for a whole generation of young people – in Germany and the entire world. Thousands of kids started playing basketball thanks to you.”
The 44-year-old Nowitzki last played for Germany at EuroBasket 2015 in Berlin and retired from the NBA in April 2019 after 21 years with the Mavericks. He has assumed some official duties in FIBA since hanging up his sneakers, being a member of the Central Board, and chairing the FIBA Players’ Commission.
Nowitzki’s number 41 was retired by the Dallas Mavericks on January 5, 2022.