During a postgame ceremony Wednesday night, Dirk Nowitzki witnessed two tribute videos and three high-profile speakers tout his accomplishments. Then he took his place behind the lectern, which featured “41 FOREVER” on the front, set up in the center of the American Airlines Center court for a postgame ceremony during which the Dallas Mavericks retired his number.

Nowitzki started his speech with a self-deprecating story, recalling how nervous he was in 1998 on the flight from Germany to Dallas after being drafted, and how touched he was by the reception at the airport, making him feel that “Dallas was the spot to be.”

Nowitzki mentioned the story to a Mavs employee years later.

“He turns to me and says, ‘Those were not fans. Those were Mavs employees, and they were sent out there,’” Nowitzki said. “They were sent out there to greet me, but I didn’t know the difference at the time. It made a huge impact on me.”


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The future Hall of Famer set an NBA record by spending his entire 21-year career with one franchise, and he delivered the team’s lone NBA title in 2011. Earning a league MVP award, a Finals MVP, and 14 All-Star appearances, Nowitzki also ranks sixth on the all-time scoring list with 31,560 points.

The special moment came after the Mavs’ 99-82 win over the Western Conference-leading Golden State Warriors in front of a sellout crowd of 20,441.

Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who’s extraordinarily close with Nowitzki, unveiled a model of the statue that will soon stand outside the arena.

“I want everybody to see your greatness forever, Dirk,” Cuban said. “So your name is on the court. And even though you didn’t want it to happen, your silhouette is on the floor. And one of the things we do so that all future Mavs fans and all future players will always know your greatness is, we put your numbers up in the rafters.

“But that’s not all we do, Dirk, because I want everybody to see more of you and because I made you a promise. I’m going to keep my promise.”

“I always tell you guys, find your passion in life and work hard,” Nowitzki said, speaking to his kids. “And great things can happen.”

During the ceremony, the 2010-11 championship team was also honored; more than half the players attended. They were set up across the court from 41 members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra who played music.

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