Opening Tip: Durant 'way better' than Dirk at 25

OKLAHOMA CITY – The respect is mutual between the faces of the Mavericks’ and Thunder’s franchises.

Kevin Durant has looked up to Dirk Nowitkzi for more than a decade, calling the big German one of his favorite players ever. Nowitzki considers Durant one of the most unique talents ever to lace up a pair of sneakers.

With 11 All-Star appearances, an MVP and a Finals MVP on his resume, it’s simply a matter of debating where Dirk ranks among the all-time greats. He believes that is Durant’s destiny, too.

“He’s way better than I was at 25,” Nowitzki said after the Mavs’ loss Wednesday to the Thunder. “He’s the complete package. He’s so long. He can shoot from anywhere. He can post now. He can go left, he can go right.

“What they’ve been telling me is he’s a gym rat. He lives in the gym all summer. He wants to get better every year, even though he’s one of the best offensive weapons we have in our game. But he wants to improve. He wants to work hard. Really, the sky is the limit.”

Nowitzki isn’t just being nice. He’s speaking the truth.

At 25, Nowitzki was an All-Star for the third time. He finished that season, his sixth in the NBA, with 9.074 career points.

Durant, who turned 25 in September, is a three-time NBA scoring champion. He’s at 12,369 points and counting four games into his seventh season.

Nowitzki, who could pass Jerry West as the No. 16 scorer of all-time this weekend, is a virtual lock to finish his career among the top 10 on that list. Durant is a good bet to bump Dirk down a spot at some point in the future.