DALLAS - No international player has scored more points in the NBA than Dirk Nowitzki.
Nowitzki, a 17-year veteran, entered the 106-98 victory over Sacramento Kings needing 17 points to pass Olajuwon, the former Houston Rockets center who finished his Hall of Fame career with 26,946 points.
"It's an honor," said Nowitzki, who knocked down a midrange jumper with 8:56 remaining in the game to pass Olajuwon. "To do it at home, it was even more special. Getting a standing ovation, it was great.
"Hakeem, to me, was one of the greatest. I grew up watching him in the 90s. His footwork, his touch, was next to no other. I'm really humbled to keep climbing the ladder, blessed to stay healthy, and play at a semi-high level, I guess."
Nowitzki, who scored 23 points in the win to give him 26,953 in his career, received two standing ovations from the sellout crowd at the American Airlines Center. The first occurred during the next break in play. The next came during a timeout a few minutes later, following a video on the arena big screens that showed all of his milestone shots.
Holger Geschwindner, Nowitzki's longtime shot doctor and mentor, was in the crowd. Geschwindner began developing Nowitzki as a lanky teenager in Germany and continues to make three visits to Dallas per season to work with him in addition to their summer sessions.
"It's great for him to be here and see it," Nowitzki said. "He meant so much to me in my career and he still does. I'm 36 years old and we still work on my game like I'm 21 years old. It's fair to say that without him I wouldn't be sitting at number 9 right now.
"If you know him, he rarely gets excited. It's hard to get a smile out of him. Maybe he was smiling a little bit. He'll probably critique me on the five shots I missed. That's just him."
Nowitzki, a 12-time All-Star who is averaging 20.9 points this season, is likely to be the seventh-leading scorer in NBA history within a couple of months. The next players he would pass are Elvin Hayes (27,313) and Moses Malone (27,409).
"Dirk has earned everything he's gotten, and every step up the ladder he takes is a reflection of his effort and his focus," Mavs owner Mark Cuban said before the game. "To be the greatest international scorer ever is an amazing accomplishment. We're glad to have him here." Added coach Rick Carlisle: "It's just a tribute to his greatness. Guys like him that live their entire life committed to excellence are able to do things like this, and that is why he is so special."