Awards: Basketball Hall of Fame: Nowitzki says thank you in German

At the last major public honor for his outstanding basketball career, Dirk Nowitzki had to collect himself briefly on stage.

Awards: Basketball Hall of Fame: Nowitzki says thank you in German

At the last major public honor for his outstanding basketball career, Dirk Nowitzki had to collect himself briefly on stage.

Wearing a blue suit with a pocket handkerchief and tie, the 45-year-old from Würzburg joked and slapped old teammates at the Dallas Mavericks during his speech for induction into his sport's Hall of Fame on Saturday night. When it was his parents' turn, the possibly greatest German athlete became emotional and shed tears.

"What you did for me I will never forget for the rest of my life, and if I'm only half as good a father as you parents were for me, then I'll be happy," said Nowitzki to great applause from the guests in German in his otherwise English speech.

First German in "Naismith Hall of Fame"

His wife Jess, children Malaika, Max and Morris, parents Jörg-Werner and Helga, sister Silke and mentor and trainer Holger Gschwindner were all there when he received the highest possible honor for his career in Springfield, Massachusetts and when first German to be inducted into the "Naismith Hall of Fame". "Being in the Hall of Fame means everything to me," Nowitzki said at the beginning of his 15-minute speech.

He is the only professional in NBA history to play for just one team, the Dallas Mavericks, during his 21 years in the league. He led the Texans to their first and only championship in 2011, became the first European to be named the league's most valuable player, and is number six on all-time scoring. But he also left deep marks because of his most dangerous weapon, which every fan and every current basketball pro associates with him: the one-legged backward throw, in English: the one-legged fadeaway.

The statue in front of the Mavericks Hall in Dallas shows him in this pose and was the penultimate of the numerous major honors Nowitzki has received since retiring four years ago. The German national team (14) and the Mavericks (41) no longer assign his respective jersey numbers, in Dallas there is a street named after him.

End of a whole life chapter

The induction into the Hall of Fame now marked the end of a whole chapter in Nowitzki's life. "There is nothing else that can come in a basketball career," he said the day before the ceremony on the east coast of the United States. "The Hall of Fame is the top of the mountain, it ends this phase of my life."

His former teammates Steve Nash and Jason Kidd were on stage with him and after a lot of praise they also had to put up with a joke. "I would have liked to have played with both of them at the height of their creativity, but I had to work with what they could give me," said Nowitzki to a great deal of laughter from the audience.

The other honorees also brought a lot of humor into their speeches. Tony Parker as the first Frenchman and Pau Gasol as the first Spaniard in the Hall of Fame joked, as did the often grumpy coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs and Dwayne Wade, who caused one of the bitter defeats of Nowitzki's career with the Miami Heat when the Mavericks Lost the Final series in 2006.

"It was therapy for Dirk and me," said Wade, looking at the joint appointments of all members of the 2023 vintage in the past few weeks. "Who would have thought we'd end up on the same team after all the fighting. And that's one of the best teams I've ever been on."

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