The German Basketball Federation honored superstar Dirk Nowitzki with an emotional ceremony ahead of the German team's European Championship kick-off against France.
In the presence of Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Nowitzki's national jersey with the number 14 was pulled under the roof of the hall in Cologne's Lanxess Arena. In the future, no German player will wear this number in the national team.
Steinmeier recognized Nowitzki as a very special athlete and person. "You can quickly become a star in sport. In order to be a hero in the eyes of the fans, you also have to have heart and character," said the Federal President. "We know that you have both and you keep proving it."
Nowitzki, who ended his career in 2019, already had a few tears in his eyes when he entered the arena. Numerous companions had come to Cologne for the ceremony. Dallas Mavericks boss Mark Cuban, among others, had traveled from the USA.
Nowitzki played a total of 153 times for Germany and won bronze at the 2002 World Cup and silver at the 2005 European Championships with the national team. "For me it was an unforgettable journey with you," said Nowitzki to the 18,000 fans. "And now: let's go Germany!", Nowitzki ended the ceremony with a view to the German opener against France.