One of the most prolific scorers in NBA History, Dirk Nowitzki is perhaps the most successful foreign player of all time in the NBA.
The German-born big man is one of only eight players in the entire history of the NBA to score 30,000 points in their career.
Read more to find out how Dirk, an Engineer Athlete developed the shot that allowed him to get buckets over anyone and everyone during his Hall of Fame career:
“I came up with a shot where I just have to basically lean back, don’t be athletic at all and just hoist it up,” Dirk Nowitzki told Business Insider.
Commonly referred to as the second most unblockable shot of all time, (behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s legendary sky-hook shot) Dirk’s one-legged, step-back, fadeaway jumper has been adopted by almost every player in professional basketball.
When Dirk talks about it though– he’s very honest about why the shot became his go-to, “I was never the fastest guy beating somebody off the dribble, so I had to come up with something to create a little separation. The step-back is a good way of just creating a little separation and still get the shot over them,” Dirk said.
That honesty should be expected, as it’s a common thread in the mentality of Engineer athletes, and Dirk is an Engineer based on his TAP assessment results. He is very open about his lack of athleticism and ability to separate, and how that forced him to develop the signature shot.
The shot isn’t just a result of Dirk deciding that was his most efficient way of getting buckets in the NBA. If you talk to any of the teammates he’s had over his nearly two decade long career, Dirk is a tireless worker, seemingly always in the gym getting shots up.
“You know, when I first got here, I remember coming back late at night to try to get a lift in or work on free throws and this and that. And every single time that I got there he was there, putting up shot after shot after shot,” recalls former teammate Tyson Chandler. “And it just shows that, you know, he is never going to settle, he doesn’t want to settle, he only wants to win and he’s willing to do whatever it takes.”
At first, the shot just materialized as a necessity to get his shot off over more athletic defenders. After seeing how effective it could be, Dirk began practicing it more, and it eventually became the deadly scoring weapon it is to this day.
“What happened was, I was getting older,” Dirk told NBA.com. “I couldn’t drive as much as I wanted or get to the foul line. Really I was just looking for a way to create a little separation and get the shot off. I’m obviously 7-feet so just one little step back gives me a little separation to get the ball over the defender. That’s it, really. I never practiced it much – it just kind of happened in a game and it worked, and I was like ‘Let’s try that again.’ At some point I kept shooting and shooting it.”
It likely took thousands of repetitions in the practice gym to get that shot mastered. Now, it’s almost mechanical for Nowitzki. Engineers are athletes who put in the work in practice, going through as many reps as it takes until they’ve mastered something. They are good at sticking with a routine as well– these two attributes come together and manifested into one of the most copied shots in basketball history.
“It’s been an honor to watch some of the guys adopt that shot,” Nowitzki said. “I’ve always said, it’s not that hard of a shot to shoot. If you have good balance, if you have good touch, anybody can shoot it. To see some of these guys put it in their repertoire and really make it a household shot, it’s been fun to watch.”
The shot isn’t the only obvious sign of Nowitzki’s Engineer mentality on display. Dirk, like most other Engineer’s Nowitzki has a strong value system that he tries hard to maintain.
Recently, there was reports of severe workplace violations occurring in the Maverick’s front office in regards to sexual harassment. When asked about his thoughts and feelings on his organization having such a toxic environment in the front office, Nowitzki didn’t pull any punches.
“It’s very disappointing,” Nowitzki told The Dallas Morning News. “It’s heartbreaking. I’m glad it’s all coming out. I was disgusted when I read the article, obviously, as everybody was. I was shocked … that our franchise, my franchise, that stuff like that was going on.”
You can tell how much something like this hurt Nowitzki, knowing that the organization he has played his entire NBA career for, was letting its female employees down in the workplace. He was honest and upfront about his disappointment in the front office’s lack of values.
In a more positive light, Dirk’s values are evident when you see all the charitable work he has done for the Dallas community and beyond.
Through his Dirk Nowitzki Foundation, the German sharp-shooter focuses on helping children in Dallas and around the world get the resources they need to reach their dreams.
“I was very fortunate to be able to realize my dream and become a professional athlete. With my experiences in sports, I learned that you have to work hard to reach your goal, but many children around the world need help to even have a chance to enhance their lives and to realize their dreams. With the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation I want to help provide education, health and well-being for these children and to make a difference in their lives,” Dirk says on the foundation’s website.
It’s a charitable spirit his teammates have noticed both on and off the court.
“He’s all about giving back, he’s all about people. The biggest thing for me when I came to Dallas was how open and willing he was to work with young guys. Work on the court every day, be willing to talk, have access to,” said teammate Harrison Barnes. “Guys of his status, All-Stars or future Hall of Famers, can kind of be distant, ‘I just want to finish up career and create my legacy.’ But he’s super down-to-earth and that’s what I think helped us last year as far as my transition and me playing better. A lot of that gives credit to him.”
Year 20 and still playing above the rim…… pic.twitter.com/94xQ2utyIN
— Dirk Nowitzki (@swish41) February 14, 2018
Staring down the barrel of his 21st season in the NBA, Nowitzki will likely go down as not only one of the best foreign players to ever play the game, but also one of the greatest to ever lace ‘em up period.
“Now, big guys that can’t shoot really are of minute value. Power forwards that can’t shoot really hold a marginalized value. Dirk’s one of the all-time greats,” said Maverick’s head coach Rick Carlisle. “He’s a pioneer because there’s no seven-footer that’s ever transformed the game the way he has. He’s why the league has made the term, stretch four.”
His impact on the league and basketball as a whole is without question, the countless hours and repetitions spent on developing “the Dirk” shot are reminders of his Engineer mentality, but his work off the court may end up being his lasting legacy, where his values and commitment to the community shine.