NowitzkiIt's hard to say that a player who entered the 2011 playoffs as one of only four players in NBA history to average over 25 points and 10 rebounds per game for a postseason career had a lot left to prove.
In the case of Dirk Nowitzki that is exactly how it felt this postseason. Particularly after Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle proclaimed him one of the 10 best players all-time despite lacking the one thing that ultimately seems to define every great player’s career: a ring.
Nowitzki is now closer than he ever has been to relieving this burden and cementing his legacy. In the process he also has the chance to remove himself from some unwanted lists among great players.
Nowitzki, with 10 all-star selections, is tied for the sixth-most by a player without an NBA title in league history. The only players with more are Karl Malone (14), Charles Barkley (11), Elgin Baylor (11), Patrick Ewing (11) and Allen Iverson (11).
Malone, Baylor and, LeBron James are the only other players in NBA history besides Nowtizki with career averages of more than 23.0 points and 7.0 rebounds without an NBA championship to their credit.
His 22,792 points are 23rd-most all-time in NBA history, but 10th-most among players to never win a ring.
This postseason though, Nowitzki hasn't just pushed himself to the brink of a championship but has also established himself as one of the premier clutch postseason scorers.
Nowitzki has been at his best in crunch time, defined as those moments under five minutes left in game with the score within five points or fewer. He’s scored 26 points in those situations in the Finals while going 8-for-13 from the field. The entire 'Big Three' of the Miami Heat have combined to score just 21 points in crunch time.
Highest 4th Qtr PPG Average
Last 15 NBA Finals
Over the last 15 postseasons only O'Neal and Michael Jordan (1997 and 1998) have averaged over 10 points per game in the fourth quarter of an NBA Finals series. Each of those players led their teams to NBA Championships while also winning the Finals MVP award, something Nowitzki is well on his way to doing.
If the Mavericks win the title and Nowitzki takes home Finals MVP honors, the legacy that his coach was hyping up will be solidified. He would become the 11th player in NBA history to have at least 10 NBA All-Star appearances, a regular season MVP award and a Finals MVP.