Dirk Nowitzki is still a stressed man. Shortly after landing in Germany, the former Dallas Mavericks superstar was doing photo shoots and PR appointments in the big football stadium.
In an interview with the German Press Agency, Nowitzki talks about the forthcoming jersey ceremony of the German Basketball Association (DBB), his successors Dennis Schröder and Luka Doncic, the physical wear and tear and the messed up home European Championship 2015.
Question: The home EM is coming up, for the first time in seven years. What do you expect in terms of mood and also from the German team?
Dirk Nowitzki: It will be great, a great event. Hopefully the fans will push us forward. It will be a nice home EM, hopefully better than back then. We don't want to hope that we'll be eliminated in the preliminary round again, but that the boys will play a great tournament with a home crowd.
You are there as an ambassador, what is your role at the EM?
Nowitzki: I will accompany the whole tournament and see that I can be there at every Germany game. We will support the tournament and contact the fans. We want to have fun. My jersey ceremony is still on September 1st, which is a huge honor. Lots of people come, friends and family. This will be an unforgettable evening for me.
It is already the second jersey ceremony for you this year. You're usually uncomfortable with something like that. Do you think it will be as emotional as it was in Dallas in January?
Nowitzki: It's always emotional when you accept such a great honor. It's a great thing that the 14 is no longer awarded in German basketball. It will be beautiful again and also emotional. I hope I do well. In Dallas I gave a longer speech, in Cologne I would like to make it a lot shorter.
Who has announced themselves from Dallas and are you afraid that your honor will push sport into the background at the start of the European Championship?
Nowitzki: No, I don't think so. It's going to be the opening game against France, it's going to be an amazing atmosphere. I don't think that my event is bigger than the game, but of course it's about the European Championship and the opening game. It's great that I get the honor briefly beforehand. A few have signed up from Dallas, the coach is supposed to come, the general manager is probably coming, Michael Finley is supposed to come. We look forward to welcoming some. The family is all there.
Dennis Schröder is the new captain of the national team. Did he take on your role for Germany a bit?
Nowitzki: Of course a lot will weigh on him, he is by far the best player. He will often have the ball in his hand and make the decisions in critical situations. I think that's what he was made for. He lives for such situations, he has the self-confidence. I hope he can carry us far. That he plays a good tournament and finds a good mix of scoring himself and involving the others. It's a tough job as a point guard.
In the NBA, Schröder is now in a situation that you don't even know. He is currently without a club and his future is uncertain. Are you a little worried?
Nowitzki: I do believe that he will stay in the NBA. Now we have to wait and see what will happen next. The Free Agency is still running. I do think he's talented enough to play at the top of the NBA. He just has to find a suitable club. I hope that he then shows his skills.
What went wrong at the home European Championship seven years ago and what can today's team learn from it?
They have lived in Texas for over two decades. What does Germany still mean to you, how often are you here and what do you associate with your home country?
Nowitzki: I'm more active now than when I was playing. I could only be there for a short time in the summer, now I'm there every few weeks. I still have my foundation in Würzburg. I'm in Germany almost every four to six weeks, my family is still there and it's still my home. I'm always happy to be there.
"I enjoy family time"
What do you miss most from the pro days?
Nowitzki: The competition and the camaraderie, a bit of the things that I knew beforehand that I would miss. I really have to say: I've been with the circus for 21 years and I'm glad that I'm doing well in retirement. I would have imagined it almost a little worse. I enjoy family time, we travel a lot. I can do things that I couldn't do when I was playing. I really feel good.
Are there moments where you tell yourself I played too long and broke too much that I now regret?
Nowitzki: 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't change it anyway. I've played with a team for 21 years, that's a record, so of course I'm incredibly proud of it. So everything is good.
You have several loose positions in Germany, like now as an EM ambassador or as the host of a charity football match. Are other roles conceivable for you?
Nowitzki: Such roles are of course nice. When it comes to something that I have to be there every day, it becomes difficult if I don't live here. The center of our lives will remain in Dallas for the time being, I am an advisor to the Mavericks there. It's obvious that I'll do a little bit more than that. So it will stay with those roles where I can only be there temporarily.
Does this mean that you are currently satisfied with your activities and your area of responsibility?
Nowitzki: I do a little bit of everything without doing anything right. But for me this is a great phase. I'm in such an in-between phase of finding what I really want to do in the future. It's been more than three years now, but I still feel very comfortable with family time. Still, I've got enough on my mind. I don't really know what the future will bring. It's a good time to enjoy it like this. I can travel whenever I want. I'm my own boss, nobody tells me what to do.
Her successor in Dallas, Luka Doncic, is attracting attention in basketball. How would you describe their relationship?
Nowitzki: Great. He's just a ripped off boy. It's insane how he's doing all this with the fame and hype surrounding his young person. On the field he's amazing as he's already reading the game. It's really fun to watch him. He's also such a super funny guy, he likes to make fun of himself. The chemistry was right from the start, we played together for another year. We are often in close contact.
About the person: Dirk Nowitzki (44) is considered the most successful basketball player in Europe. Born in Würzburg, he played a total of 21 seasons for the Dallas Mavericks between 1998 and 2019 and was the first German to win the NBA championship with Dallas in 2011. After his career, Nowitzki lives in Texas with his wife Jessica and their three children Malaika, Max and Morris.
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