For Dirk Nowitzki, a piece of history is repeating itself. The very exclusive honor that he only received with the Dallas Mavericks at the beginning of January is now also awaiting Germany's retired basketball legend in Cologne.
His national team jersey will be pulled under the roof of the hall this Thursday, after which the number will no longer be assigned. "The fact that the 14 is no longer awarded in German basketball is a great thing. It will be nice again and also emotional. I hope that I will get through well. I gave a longer speech in Dallas, in Cologne I would like it a lot keep it shorter," said Nowitzki of the German Press Agency. In the case of the Mavericks, it was number 41 that was immortalized in the hall of the NBA club from Texas.
The setting is worthy, a full arena and a relaxed atmosphere are expected for the opening of the European Championship against France on Thursday (8.30 p.m. / Magentasport). "If anyone deserves it, it's Dirk. He was always ready to play for Germany and has put in incredible performances in 153 international matches for men," said Ingo Weiss, President of the German Basketball Federation. Weiss is happy about the "suitable setting" for the emotional tribute. Even Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is expected in the Lanxess Arena.
And the pros around Dennis Schröder and Franz Wagner want to help make the evening a success. "He's a really big role model for me. He's an idol - how down-to-earth he stayed and how blatantly he played. Things like that impressed me," said Wagner. For Schröder it is extra motivation that the most successful German basketball player is there with his family. "He changed basketball for the big players in Europe. He's one of the best foursomes of all time," praised the German captain.
The former basketball star will hope that he doesn't have to make too many meters. According to his own statements, Nowitzki still plays tennis and regularly rides his bike, but after 21 grueling years with the Mavericks he is no longer really good on his feet. When he played as a goalkeeper in his own charity game in Frankfurt last week, he gave a physically terrifying picture. Nowitzki was only able to walk from his own goal to the opposing goal to take a penalty, limping and limping.
Marked by pain in recent years
"Oh, what does regret mean? I think that's just part of having a few aches and pains afterwards. It was just fun in the end. I thought I could still achieve a lot. If I go back now, I can anyway not change anymore", Nowitzki describes his last years, which were already marked by pain. The career end in April 2019 was not really voluntary. Nowitzki just couldn't take it anymore.
The Franconian, whom his former teammate Paul Zipser calls "a German sports legend", has come to terms with his new life as a privateer. Ambassador of the EM, advisor to the Mavericks, host of the benefit game: Nowitzki has discovered new fields of activity, but is still looking.
"I do a little bit of everything without doing anything right. But for me it's a great phase. I'm in an intermediate phase to find what I really want to do in the future," said Nowitzki. After the dates were prescribed for him by the NBA schedule and the general appointment calendar of the world association Fiba for 21 years, the family man now enjoys completely new freedoms. "I'm my own boss, nobody tells me anything."