ESPN Has been doing their rankings from number 500 to number 1 to determine where the players in the NBA Rank. I have not been too impressed by their rankings as I rarely am with anything that has to do with an ESPN ranking, but I thought I had to speak out for Dirk Nowitzki. ESPN has him ranked #11 out 500 which is not bad, but really?
The beginning of last season there was no doubt that Dirk Nowitzki was one of the top 3 players in the NBA. However, last year I believe that ESPN ranked Nowitzki #5 and leading the way was LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade. Wait Chris Paul? Really? I believe that Nowitzki single-handledly carried the Mavericks during the 2011 Playoffs which eventually got them a NBA Title beating the all mighty Miami Heat in 6 games.
Throughout the years writers, analysts and media all over the country never gave Nowitzki the credit that he deserve. Nowitzki will tell you up front that he doesn’t care about what the media has to say and it doesn’t bother him. Which is true. Dirk has never been the guy to complain to the media or to criticize what others say about him. Before the 2006 Post-season everyone labeled Nowitzki as “soft” or as a player who would never be able to get it done by himself.
Yes, there was a time in Dirk’s career where he wasn’t a great defender or a guy that would take the ball to the basket, but I would have never put him as a “soft” player. I remember back in 2003 when he helped his team, Dallas Mavericks, to the Western Conference Playoffs for the first time since 1988. Nowitzki got injured during the series and the San Antonio Spurs went on to win the series and eventually the NBA Finals. However, if Nowitzki was never injured during that series the outcome could have played out totally differently than it did. It took another three years before when Nowitzki carried the team to their first appearance in the NBA Finals in 2006. Nowitzki took care of the Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs and the Phoenix Suns to go on to face the Miami Heat in the Finals which they eventually lost in six games to the Heat. Then the following season Nowitzki helped the Mavericks to a franchise best 67 wins and there’s no question that everybody had the Mavericks picked to win the NBA Finals that year, but in that first round against the #8 seeded Golden State Warriors. They lost in six games.
Every season since then the Mavs were a first or second round exit team. They were called the “One and done boys” by ESPN Dallas radio host Ben Rogers from the “Ben and Skin Show”. Dirk always had great seasons averaging over 26 points a game in each of the last five seasons. It’s not until that 2011 run to a NBA Championship that it got everyone’s attention especially since they were going against the new look Miami Heat with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Everyone saw how great Nowitzki was and even after that Game 6 of the Finals the spotlight was still on LeBron James and the Heat instead of the new NBA Champions, Dallas Mavericks, and their MVP, Dirk Nowitzki.
It could be that the Mavs were swept in the first round by the Oklahoma City Thunder this past season, but ESPN is supposed to rank each player by the quality they have and I do believe that Nowitzki is still a quality player for his team and will be until the day he retires. Dirk will be on the list of the top 5 scorers in the NBA and as I mentioned in the past if given the right circumstances Nowitzki and the Mavs will take advantage of that and may have the same results as they did in 2011.
In my opinion, I believe there is a reason why Nowitzki is still shown lack of respect by major networks/sites like ESPN. In the past few years is because it has all been about the Heat and LeBron James. Do not get me wrong here I know that James is the best player on the planet and he should be ranked #1 by everyone, but there is no way that Dirk Nowitzki is that low in the Rankings. He is still at least a top 5 player in the NBA to go along with Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. If somehow the Mavericks win another championship in the next few years with Nowitzki I still think that he will still be shown the lack of respect by people around the country, but at least in Dallas and all over North Texas Dirk Nowitzki is still one of the top players in the NBA.