Former NBA Champ Nazr Mohammed explains how long-time Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki was one of the toughest players he ever had to guard.
Dirk Nowitzki is one of the all-time greats to set foot on the NBA hardwood. Because of his unique style of play and down-to-earth nature, the Champion is one of the most loved players in the history of the league.
The German superstar dedicated his entire career to play for the city of Dallas. And after 21-long-years, Nowitzki built himself one of the most decorated resumes in the modern NBA. Over the span of 1,522 career games, Dirk had 14 All-Star appearances, 12 All-NBA selections, an MVP, handed the 2011 Miami Heat with one of the greatest NBA Finals upset, and even won Finals MVP that year.
Standing at 7-feet tall, Nowitzki’s popular fadeaway shot was practically unguardable. And he managed to use this massive size advantage over all the defenders he played against, scoring more than 31,500 points on a 20.7/7.5/2.4 career average.
Nowitzki gave all his defenders a hard time while they tried to mark him. Even the best of the best would more than often fail to do so, and would end up getting lit up by the German. Nazr Mohammed was just one of the many who dreaded going against the big man.
“No one else in the world will ever have the same game as Dirk Nowitzki”: Nazr Mohammed
Back in 2015, Naz had an interview with “The Players’ Tribune”, where he was asked to name the 6 toughest players he had ever guarded. Alongside adding Shaquille O’Neal, Rasheed Wallace, Tim Duncan, Yao Ming, and Kevin Garnett to that list, Naz also spoke about Dirk.
“Frustrating. That’s the word that comes to mind when I think about what it’s like to guard Dirk Nowitzki.
When you looked at Dirk, even when he was younger, you saw that he wasn’t fast, he wasn’t athletic and he wasn’t strong. You don’t encounter many guys at this level who don’t check off at least one of those boxes. So it was easy to go into the match up feeling pretty good about your odds. But the qualities that make Dirk one of the best players in history aren’t visible immediately. It’s his combination of skill, touch and balance that’s had big men saying “Damn!” for nearly 20 years now.
In fact, his patented fadeaway off one leg is a glimpse into what a special player he is.
That’s the kind of shot that would get the vast majority of big men pulled from a game immediately. Most coaches would probably try to strip that away from your game before you even made it to the NBA. In their eyes, it’s a soft shot for a big man… For a long time, it seemed like every team in the league was even trying to draft the next Dirk. Hell, some still are!
The only problem is that there’s no one else in the world who has the same game as Dirk. Probably never will be. With his unorthodox footwork and movements, there was really no way to prepare for a game against him.
We all know he’s one of the greatest shooting big men to ever play in the NBA, but what’s not accounted for is how many other things he was able to set up for himself on the floor because of his shot. He knows he can pull up with little or no space because of his height — and every guy in the league knows it as well.
Your only chance against him was hoping the refs let you play physical that night. If you could get away with a bump and grab here and there, you might be able to throw him off. But if the refs decided to use their whistles, you might as well pack it up. You knew he was going to sink his free throws, so you definitely didn’t want to foul him. He’s one of those guys that if he’s fouled, there’s no need to waste time shooting free throws. Just cut to the chase and add two points to the scoreboard so we can speed up the game.”