Doc Rivers is probably okay that the Los Angeles Clippers lost to the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night. He loves Dirk Nowitzki that much.
Fine, you got me. There’s no way he’s cool with the loss. It was a contentious game the Clippers needed. They’re now just one game up on the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Western Conference’s five-seed—the difference between facing the Utah Jazz and the Houston Rockets in the first round. Which, you know, whoa.
Still, Rivers’ love for Nowitzki is real, per ESPN.com’s Tim MacMahon:
Doc Rivers on Dirk Nowitzki: “He’s his own bird, is what I love about him. There’s not been a Dirk. Ever. There’s been a lot of great players in our league, but the great, great players are the ones where you say well there’s never been one of those. To me that’s Dirk. I don’t know, who would you say was a Dirk before Dirk? No one. Now, there’s a lot of guys trying to be it and probably ruining their careers trying to do it. Same thing happened with Magic. I thought Magic, in the middle of his career, there was a bunch of 7-footers trying to be guards, none of them made it. They wanted to be like Magic. And I think that’s the same thing with Dirk. A lot of guys are – it’s growing, the shooting with the bigs is all over the league, but Dirk is a rare bird.”
If you don’t agree with Rivers, you stink at life.
Larry Bird came before Dirk, but Nowitzki is someone entirely different in the sense he made it okay to be a sweet-shooting 7-footer. He is now the benchmark prototype. Anytime a big comes into the league who can shoot, he’s compared to Dirk, albeit in some cases the correlation is made much more frequently than others.
That catch-all comparison will fade with time. Inbound bigs with an outside touch will start being compared to Nikola Jokic, Kristaps Porzingis, Karl-Anthony Towns, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis et al. But Nowitzki is the dude who paved the way for bigs to play like wings. The skyscrapers who are now proving behemoths can play like guards wouldn’t have as clear a path to NBA prominence without trail he first blazed.