Coming into play tonight against the Houston Rockets, Dirk Nowitzki is just 16 points behind Reggie Miller for 15th on the NBA‘s all-time scoring list. Since Dirk is averaging nearly 20 points per game, it is most likely that he’ll be able to make the move up the list tonight.
Miller scored 25,279 points in his 18-season career. He played all 18 seasons with the Indiana Pacers, and Rick Carlisle was a coach with the Pacers for the last six of those seasons. Because of his time with both Nowitzki and Miller, Carlisle has a unique perspective on how the two compare.
According to Carlisle, the biggest parallel between the two is their otherworldly work ethic. He told ESPN:
“Both meticulous in their rituals, their preparation, attention to detail, how they approach the game, care for their bodies, put winning as the priority. All of that stuff is second to none with both of those guys of all of the guys I ever coached and played with — and that includes quite a few Hall of Famers.”
Coming up big in the clutch is another aspect the two share. Many can recall the times Reggie would knock down a clutch three-pointer for the win just as Dirk has hit more game winners for the Dallas Mavericks than I can count.
Looking further up the list, Dirk is just 73 points behind Kevin Garnett, and KG is only scoring around seven points per game so far this year. At that pace, Dirk will be passing him within a couple of weeks. If Dirk can average 20 points per game the rest of the year and play all 71 remaining games (as unlikely as that is), he’ll end the season at No. 11 just ahead of Dominique Wilkins and behind Oscar Robertson on the all-time list. He’ll be fairly close to passing even more Hall of Famers early next season.
Unless something unforeseen happens and Dirk is forced into retirement early then he should have no problem passing Shaquille O’Neal for sixth all-time. Shaq sits at 28,596, so Dirk would only need to average 13 points per game for three more seasons to pass him. Given that Dirk doesn’t appear to be slowing down all that much and that Tim Duncan has proven age isn’t always a factor, there is no reason to think Dirk won’t be able to easily eclipse Shaq.
Dirk will say that these achievements won’t matter to him until he retires, and that’s probably the right way of looking at it. As fans, though, it’s always nice to step back and see just how dominant the best Maverick of all time really is.