“Dude, who the h*ll are you?!”: When Charles Barkley was astonished at how Dirk Nowitzki dropped 52 points on a Team USA with Michael Jordan and himself

Samir Mehdi
|Published April 16, 2022

Dirk Nowitzki once had 52 points against Team USA in an exhibition match which led to Charles Barkley approaching him. 

Unbeknownst to Charles Barkley, who actually led the Dream Team in scoring over guys like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, a 14-year old Dirk Nowitzki was watching him ball out from the other side of the world. Having grown up in Germany, basketball wasn’t exactly the primary sport that kids wanted to play growing up. 

However, after watching the Dream Team win Gold with ease at Barcelona in the summer of 1992, Dirk knew exactly what he wanted to do. He had started playing basketball prior, around the age of 12 but his love for the game grew after seeing Charles Barkley play his heart out.

Also read: “Shaq, there’s no ‘I’ in TEAM, but there’s a ‘ME’ in that m****rf****r!”: Lakers’ legend Shaquille O’Neal recalls when Kobe Bryant earned his respect

Dirk Nowitzki wore number 11 to honor his father who also wore number 11 in his heyday. However, upon witnessing the ‘Rounf Mound of Rebound’ in his prime, Dirk quickly changed his number to what Barkley wore in the Olympics: 14. 

Unfortunately, after making it to the NBA, his Mavericks teammate, Robert Pack, wore 14 so he switched one and four and so the iconic 41 was born. 

Charles Barkley and his interaction with Dirk Nowitzki. 

Dirk Nowitzki got a chance to play against two of his idols in Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen before making it to the NBA. The 19-year-old played against Team USA in an exhibition in 1997 and went on to drop a whopping 52 points on the Americans.

Also read: “The people who build the same statue Chuck”: Shaquille O’Neal’s hilarious response to Charles Barkley questioning his comparisons to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Everything from his patented one-legged fadeaways to him stretching the floor the way Larry Bird did, Dirk had it all. As if the day couldn’t get any better, according to Jackie MacMullan on ‘The Icons Club’ podcast, she reveals that Barkley personally approached Dirk to ask him who the h*ll he was. 

Chuck became so infatuated with Dirk that he told him that he’d get him a seat at Auburn no problem. However, the eventual Mavericks legend had already received several offers from other universities. He wouldn’t take any of them and would directly go from playing in Europe to being selected 9th overall in 1998. 

Share this article

About the author

Samir Mehdi

Samir Mehdi

Samir Mehdi is an NBA Editor at The Sportsrush. Ever since he was 13 years old, he’s been obsessed with the game of basketball. From watching Kobe Bryant’s highlights on YouTube to now, analyzing and breaking down every single game on League Pass, Samir’s passion for the game is unwavering. He's a complete basketball junkie who not only breaks down current games but also keenly watches ones from the 60s’ and 70s’ while also reading comprehensive books on the history of the league. Samir’s life revolves around basketball and he hopes that shows in his work. Aside from work, he loves to spend time in the gym and with his friends at social gatherings.

Read more from Samir Mehdi