DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki described himself as shocked and saddened to learn that Steve Nash would miss the entire season, possibly ending the point guard's spectacular career, but proud that his best friend in basketball had maximized his potential.
The Los Angeles Lakers announced Thursday that Nash, whose chronic back issues date to his days playing with Nowitzki on the Dallas Mavericks more than a decade ago, would sit out what would have been the 19th season of his NBA career.
"I texted him actually that I was proud of him and I was proud to be his teammate," Nowitzki told ESPNDallas.com on Sunday. "We had an unbelievable run.
"I told him that if you would have told me a 6-foot white guy from Canada was going to be back-to-back MVPs, I would have said you're absolutely nuts. He had an unbelievable ride.
"To me, he was one of the fiercest competitors I know. He was little, but he didn't take anything from nobody. He always wanted to win in practice and always got better. He was a great teammate and a great friend, and I was sad to see him go out that way."
Nash won two MVP awards, earned eight All-Star invitations, dished out the third-most assists in NBA history and scored a remarkably efficient 17,387 career points despite the back problems, which played a significant role in Mavs owner Mark Cuban not making a stronger attempt to keep Nowitzki's original pick-and-roll partner when the Phoenix Suns swooped in to steal the free agent from Dallas in the summer of 2004.
Nash took Nowitzki under his wing when the big German arrived in America as a wide-eyed 20-year-old. After a rocky start, which hit a low point when Nash was booed by the home crowd at Reunion Arena every time he touched the ball one game, the duo played leading roles in putting Dallas back on the NBA map after a disastrous decade for the franchise.
However, Nash reached his greatest heights after his departure from Dallas, winning the next two MVP awards and establishing himself as one of the elite point guards in league history during that eight-season run with the Suns.
"I mean, if you consider where he came from and his lack of athleticism, he's got to be one of the greatest," said Nowitzki, who won a championship with Jason Kidd as his point guard seven seasons after Nash left. "If you look at Magic [Johnson] and J. Kidd, they were big, they were physical, they were athletic, and he did it all with quickness and smarts. He's going to go down as one of the greatest shooters -- even though, it was funny -- he never really looked to shoot that much. But when he did, he was deadly. We always told him, 'We want you to shoot more because you're so good at it.'
"I was really fortunate to play with two of the best point guards ever, and that's J. Kidd and Steve."
The past two years were especially tough on the 40-year-old Nash, whose back prevented him from living up to lofty expectations after the Lakers acquired him in a blockbuster sign-and-trade deal.
Nash was limited to 65 games over the past two seasons, including only 15 in 2013-14, but was optimistic about making a strong comeback after relentlessly working to prepare for this season.
That's what made the news of Nash missing the season -- and possibly having played his final NBA game -- so hard to take for Nowitzki, who learned of it from his friend via text message hours before the official announcement.
"I was actually shocked," Nowitzki said. "I was disappointed for him. I know how hard he worked this summer. I saw him in June at his soccer game for a week, and even then he was in the gym. He was doing all this core stuff. He was going to work out with Kyrie Irving. He worked out this summer in L.A. with Kevin Durant some. I mean, he put a lot of work in for a 40-year-old. I was disappointed to see [he was out for the season], because I thought he looked like he was in great shape when I saw him.
"I think what was tough for him is when you feel great one day and you feel like, 'Hey, I got this, I can play at a high level,' and then you come in the next day and everything's hurting. I think he didn't want to do the whole, I feel great for one day or two games and then sit out three or four games, play another game, sit out.
"I don't think he thought to himself that it was fair to the Lakers or his teammates, so he made that decision that it's just too much. The toll is just too much on his body."