Dirk vs. KG: A respectful rivalry renewed

BROOKLYN -- A rivalry will be renewed as the Dallas Mavericks face the Brooklyn Nets. Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett had some fierce battles when Nowitzki came into the league. Once Garnett left the Minnesota Timberwolves and joined the Boston Celtics, their paths haven’t crossed as much.

They were linked once again earlier this season.

Back in late November, there was a time when Nowitzki and Garnett played a little game of leap frog on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Once he passed Garnett the second time, Nowitzki hasn’t looked back. It’s hard to see the Brooklyn big man catching up to Dallas’ face of the franchise as Garnett is averaging a career-low 6.9 points per game while Nowitzki (21.1) hums along at an All-Star level. That said, the two players will be linked together by the legacy they have established.

“They’re two all-time greats,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said of the two power forwards. “It’s been great watching those guys compete kind of this parallel universe for over a decade. They’ve just been two of the best players and best competitors that the game has seen.

“The basketball world has huge respect for both guys.”

That parallel universe the two have been apart of has produced some amazing performances. Their resumes speak for themselves. Whenever the future Hall of Famers decide to call it a career, both will have left their mark on the position and the game in very different ways.

Garnett recognizes that both he and Nowitzki took very different paths to get to where they now are. Despite that, success has followed both of them.

“Dirk does a lot of different things than I do. We’re two totally different players,” Garnett said. “Dirk came in a little after me, in the era of Webb (Chris Webber), and Sheed (Rasheed Wallace), and Dice (Antonio McDyess) and all the fours, and (Charles) Barkley, and Karl (Malone) -- that era when the four was really rich.

“It was a crazy era for fours. In a lot of ways we’re similar when it comes to approach, when it comes to our craft, work ethic, but we’re two totally different players. Dirk does a lot of things on the perimeter, his shot is one of the best in the history of the game. We have a totally different realm of things, but we’re both respectable, both have complete bodies of work, both are great players.”

As always, Nowitzki openly admitted that he had nothing but respect for Garnett’s game and their rivalry over their historic careers.

“We had some great, great battles over the years. I think he won some, I won some,” said Nowitzki, who cemented his status as a superstar by averaging 33.3 points and 15.7 rebounds in a 2002 first-round sweep of Garnett's Timberwolves. “What you appreciate about the guy is his competitiveness. He’s out there and always into the game. I don’t care if it’s the first quarter, or fourth quarter or a preseason game, he just has that competitive spirit and if you obviously see that in your opponent that makes you raise your level up and makes you compete even harder. So I think we had some great experiences against each other."

It’s apparent that both players are in the twilight of their careers and that the amount of times these two will face each other can be counted on one hand. With that in mind, seeing these power forwards go against each other one more time should be fun to watch.

Mike Mazzeo of ESPN New York contributed to this report.