With nine seconds to go and his team holding a nine-point lead over the Dallas Mavericks, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers called a timeout that confused everyone in the arena. Then, instead of bringing his team to the bench, he took a microphone out and started chanting, “Dirk! Dirk!”
It was a spontaneous tribute to Nowitzki’s career in what’s suspected to be his final season and last appearance in the Staples Center.
The 41-year-old gave a bashful appreciation, with a thumbs up and salute as the entirety of the crowd cheered him on.
“It was sweet. I’m really appreciative,” Nowitzki said after the game, according to ESPN. “At first, I was like, ‘Why is Doc calling a timeout? What’s he doing with [9.4] seconds left? What’s he up to?’ Then he grabbed the mic. I didn’t really understand much, but that was really humbling. That was an emotional moment.”
“That was just, we had a lead and I had a timeout,” Rivers said, according to ESPN. “Honestly, I didn’t plan it. I just felt like [Dirk] deserved that.”
The celebration was nice, but the best part is that Nowitzki has yet to announce that he is indeed hanging it up after this season. “The fans have shown me a lot of love already on the road,” Nowitzki said at the All-Star Game, according to the Star-Telegram, “even though I obviously haven’t announced that this is going to be it. I want to see how my body feels the last couple of weeks. If I get to see any improvement, if it’s still fun, and I guess we’re going to make that decision later.” Nowitzki is on a one-year deal set to expire over the summer, but that doesn’t mean Dallas wouldn’t keep him if he wanted to give it another go.
He’s been cheered on and thanked as if this is it, with Adam Silver even inviting him as an add-on to the All-Star Game. Silver joked, “In the case of Dwyane Wade, he’s already announced this was going to be his last season… in the case of Dirk Nowitzki, I had seen him painfully running up and down the court which made it clear this would be his last season.”
Could you imagine if Nowitzki didn’t actually retire after all this?