In the heat of the moment with the game on the line, players do what they feel like they have to do. During a matchup in mid-November, the Dallas Mavericks were looking to get a crucial defensive stop against the Miami Heat. The Mavs’ defense put LeBron James in a bind, and with no other options left, he hit a classic Dirk Nowitzki one-foot fadeaway jumper.
In an interview with ESPN Dallas, Nowitzki said the shot didn’t go unnoticed.
“Yeah, I actually saw that,” Nowitzki said with a grin. “I looked at him and gave him a smirk. It was a heck of a shot. ... I didn’t think he’d shoot a one-legger. It looked pretty smooth. I’ve got to give it to him. He made it look easy.”
Was James trying to get back at Nowitzki and the Mavs for what happened in 2011 through imitating Nowitzki’s shot? Actually, it was the farthest thing from that.
"No, it was a show of respect," James told reporters in Miami after the game. "Dirk is one of my favorite guys. I love the way he approaches the game, the way he plays the game, he's amazing, obviously, we all know that. But I took that from him. I don't do that as well as him, though. He's been doing it a lot longer than me."
That comment was made just a little over a week after Oklahoma City Thunder scoring machine Kevin Durant continued to profess his admiration for the Dallas forward. As Oklahoma City and Dallas have squared off in the playoffs over recent years, Durant has been very open about his respect for Nowitzki and wanting to use his shot. Durant mentioned that when he was 13, Nowitzki was 23 and the young gunner was already working on Nowitzki’s patented shot.
“Sorry I’m making Dirk seem a little bit old, but that’s when I started focusing on Dirk, and he became one of my favorite players to ever play this game,”
Durant told reporters prior to the game between the Mavs and the Thunder in early November, “I just tried it one day when I was working out in the summer. It was rougher than I thought it was going to be, so it took me some time to figure it out, but I think I’m doing all right with it.”
It should be noted that Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was the first to really copy Nowitzki’s shot, but he hasn’t had a chance to use it yet this season due to his Achilles injury. Nonetheless, the other two stars are using it and loving it and it’s clear that Nowitzki doesn’t hold any ill will toward the young juggernauts as they use his shot.
“It’s obviously an honor if the two best players in this league think that. That’s great. It makes me feel proud of the work I’ve put in now in my 16th season. I’m glad that other teams and players are watching us play. It makes me happy,” Nowitzki continued. “I’m glad it’s a weapon they use and like.”
It’s not like James and Durant need any additional help to their games on offense. They have the full repertoire. They have post-ups, unlimited range and the ability to get to the rim off the dribble, but having Nowitzki’s one-foot fade makes them that much more filthy. There’s a big difference though in when the three players are required to use the shot. Ever the one to self-deprecate, Nowitzki explained the difference.
“The good thing about that shot is that you can always get it off, but those two guys are so quick off the dribble that they’re not stuck a lot. I usually get stuck,” Nowitzki joked. “I get stuck a lot, so that’s always a shot I can do. They’re still in their prime and quick off the dribble, so they don’t get stuck that much.”
The league has seen Kareem’s skyhook, Hakeem’s dream shake and Michael’s fadeaway emerge as some of the most iconic shots. Speaking of Michael Jordan, don’t forget that Jordan cited Nowitzki as one of the current stars in this era he felt could be as successful in his era. Back to the shots, is it possible that Nowitzki’s one-foot fade could become the next shot to join the group?
“It already is,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle told ESPN Dallas. “You’ve got those guys [James and Durant] emulating it and basically going out of their way to learn to shoot it as a tribute to him.
“I can make a case that Dirk has changed the NBA game as much as any player in history with his shooting ability. Just look at the way the game is played now, it’s fast-paced, it’s jump-shot oriented, it’s skill-oriented. It all lines up with when he came in the league. 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. 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.”
When asked about the theory that his shot could become the next iconic shot, Nowitzki pondered, grinned and quickly dismissed the notion of it.
“I’m not sure about of that,” Nowitzki laughed. “I’m glad that I’ve left a little mark. I’ve been able to do some good stuff and win a lot of games in this league, score a lot of points. It’s been a pleasure. It’s been a good ride. I wouldn’t quite put my shot up there with the dream shake or the Jordan fadeaway, but it’s definitely a good shot.”
When you see the NBA logo, you know that it’s Jerry West. When you see the Jumpman logo, you know that it’s Michael Jordan. That’s the true definition of an icon. Nowitzki might not agree, but his one-foot fadeaway is an iconic shot. Maybe one day, the shot will be immortalized in true icon status as a statue outside the American Airlines Center.