Dirk Nowitzki picked the worst year to enter the NBA Draft.
He declared for the draft in 1998, shortly after Michael Jordan’s last game as a Chicago Bull. He fell all the way to pick 8 but was finally selected by the Dallas Mavericks. But you know all this.
What you might not know is that Dirk Nowitzki almost left the NBA during his rookie season, the 1998-99 season. He would have, too, but thankfully the Mavericks traded for Steve Nash on the same day they drafted Dirk.
The 1998-99 season was not an enjoyable one for the players. After a lockout pushed opening night to February 5th, each team played 50 games in 90 days. It was grueling and punishing, to say the least.
On top of that, there was the cultural shock for Dirk, who was going from the second division in German basketball straight to the NBA. He went from a small German town directly into the heart of Texas.
Steve Nash himself described Dirk as “struggling.” Both Nash and Dirk could’ve easily been out of the league in a few years but they “had each other to lean on,” said Steve Nash on May 8th while serving as a guest on the All The Smoke podcast.
But unlike Darko, Dirk had someone to help him along. Without the help of Nash in Dirk’s early years in the NBA, Nowitzki would’ve undoubtedly moved back to Germany, and one of the all-time greats would’ve been lost.
Darko Miličić, on the other hand, had no one to help him in his time of need. Darko had turned 18 just six days before the 2003 NBA draft and experienced an even larger cultural shock than Dirk did.
Darko was going from Serbia straight to the heart of Detroit. He was a talented kid but was shoved into the shadows of the champions that were already there.
I believe that if Darko’s career were to be played out 100 times, his current reality would be the worst possible outcome for him, basketball-wise.
Image: USA Today