Dirk exits one group, joins another

MIAMI -- Elgin Baylor, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and John Stockton (among others) just lost a member of the Best Player to Never Win a Ring Club.

Dirk Nowitzki just got his.

The 7-footer won his first championship ring after a long, hard 13-year climb, displaying steely resolve and a passionate leadership that would make Larry Bird proud.

Now Nowitzki enters a different discussion: Is he the most accomplished player at the time of his first NBA title? Could Dirk be the player who was most successful in his career before he could finally got to raise the championship trophy?

"I don't really think that way right now," Nowitzki said. "If you're in this league for 13 years of just battling and playoffs the last basically 10 years, 11 years, and always coming up a little short. That's why this is extra special. If I would have won one early in my career, maybe I would have never put all the work and the time in that I have over the last 13 years. So this feels amazing."

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, four players have won their first NBA title after accruing at least 10 All-Star selections beforehand: Jerry West, Kevin Garnett, Oscar Robertson, and Elvin Hayes. Nowitzki and Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd, both of whom have been named an All-Star 10 times have now joined this group.