By Dorothy J. Gentry, Texas Metro News Sports Editor
“It’s about time” Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki joked recently after receiving the key to the City of Dallas from Mayor Mike Rawlings.
“I’m very honored, very humbled. It’s been a long great ride here. 20 years representing this city proudly…the franchise, the city, and the fanbase,” Nowitzki said. “Dallas has supported me and took me in from day one. We grew together and I have done everything in my power to give back to this city. Thank you.”
Nowitzki was presented with the key, during halftime of the Mavericks game against the Brooklyn Nets, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the community and his professional achievements over his 20-year career with the Mavericks.
Nowitzki is only the third person to receive a key from Mayor Rawlings since he took office in 2011. Previously receiving keys from Rawlings were golfer Jordan Spieth during his rookie season after winning both the Masters and the U.S. Open. The second went to local preservationist Virginia McAllister.
“It’s not something I do on a regular basis,” Rawlings explained. “It has to be someone special. It’s got to be someone, really, that is a very, very special person. Sort of one of those things where if they’re great, there’s no debate. [Nowitzki] is that.
“Dirk embodies everything Dallas residents should aspire to be. For any sports fan out there, he’s a joy to watch, always striving for excellence and giving 110 percent. But what many don’t fully understand is how diligent, passionate, humble and generous Dirk is, on and off the court.”
Nowitzki accepted the key at halftime, joined by the mayor, Dallas City council members and three high school students who assisted in creating a larger ceremonial key specially made for Nowitzki.
Nowitzki is one of only seven players to play at least 20 seasons in the NBA and is the only player in NBA history to play 21 seasons with the same franchise. He is the top foreign-born scorer in league history, the only foreign-born player in the NBA’s 30,000-point club, one of seven players in NBA history to reach 31,000 career points and is seventh on NBA’s all-time points leaders.
Among Nowitzki’s notable humanitarian contributions:
- Grants made annually to organizations focusing on children’s wellbeing, health and education through The Dirk Nowitzki Foundation – Last year, the Foundation raised $960,000 and held its annual Pro Celebrity Tennis Classic raising $1.92 million for Hurricane Harvey victims. His foundation also holds monthly meetings with Hurricane Harvey victims to help families start over and re-enter the workforce.
- Hurricane relief efforts – Nowitzki donated to the JJ Barea Foundation to assist Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico. He also helped 10 families who were relocated to Dallas from Houston after Hurricane Harvey.
- Annual Heroes Celebrity Baseball Game to benefit various local nonprofits such as Girls Embracing Mothers, Alley’s House, Booker T. Washington School for the Performing and Visual Arts.
- Annual visits to patients at Children’s Medical Center.
- “Dirk’s Dunkers” – Nowitzki hosts special guests from youth-based nonprofit organizations, underserved schools and veteran groups in this section of the American Airlines Center.
- Seats for Soldiers — Nowitzki, along with his teammates, signs hundreds of autographs while spending time with wounded soldiers from the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and reserve troops from the Dallas-Fort Worth area following the Seats for Soldiers game each fall.
- In recognition of Nowitzki’s global humanitarian efforts, the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth honored him with the prestigious H. Neil Mallon Award in September 2017.
On the court, Nowitzki is the Mavericks’ all-time leader in points (31,187), games played (1,471), starts (1,440), minutes (50,573), rebounds (11,331), defensive rebounds (9,868), field goals made (11,034), 3-pointers made (1,918), free throws made (7,201) and blocks (1,263). He has led the Mavericks to 15 NBA playoff appearances, including the franchise’s first Finals appearance in 2006 and its only NBA championship in 2011, where he was named Most Valuable Player. He is a 13-time All-Star, a 12-time All-NBA Team member, the first European player to start in an All-Star Game, and the first European player to receive the NBA Most Valuable Player Award in 2007.
On December 10, 2012, he became the first non-American player to receive the Naismith Legacy Award. He has also received the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award (2016-17) and the Magic Johnson Award (2013-14).
“Dallas is so fortunate and proud to have a leader like him in our city,” concluded the Mayor. “He is a class act, a man who consistently puts his teammates, his city and his family before himself.”