Technically, Dirk Nowitzki has yet to actually say that he is going to retire at the conclusion of this NBA season, and if he wanted, he could become an unrestricted free agent this off-season. But considering he'll turn 41 in June, and the fact that he's averaging just 12 minutes per game and only five points, we've all just assumed this is his last hurrah. Let's not forget he looks like a dad in a men's league game out there at this point. Come to think of it, he's going to dominate a dad men's league in retirement.
Because we've all assumed, almost every visiting arena Dirk has visited has given him a hero's sendoff. The Boston Celtics fans chanted for Dirk to come in, and gave him an epic standing ovation early in the game:
At Madison Square Garden, Knicks fans also chanted "We want Dirk!" and they got plenty of him, as the 2011 NBA Finals MVP scored 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting. Nowitzki received arguably the loudest cheers of any player at MSG this season, an all-too familiar occurrence in the world's most-famous arena these days. He and D-Wade also received a warm welcome in Charlotte at the All-Star game.
Being recognized like that in places like New York, Boston and the All-Star game are all undeniably cool moments, but it was Doc Rivers and the Staples Center crowd who produced easily the coolest moment of Dirk's retirement tour to date. With under 10 seconds remaining in the Mavs-Clippers game, Rivers grabbed the microphone during a timeout and made everybody get on their feet and give it up for one of the all-time greats. Check it out:
An opposing coach stopping everything to honor a player from another team is not something you see every day. As we've seen in other cities, the opposing fans have taken it upon themselves to cheer on Dirk, but Doc made sure Dirk knew how much he respected his career and the crowd followed suit. Great moment for Nowitzki, who finished with 12 points in the Mavericks 121-112 loss. If Dirk does call it a career, that will be his last game at the Staples Center, as the Mavs don't return to play the Lakers for the rest of the year.