Dirk Nowitzki becomes first player to have number retired by German Basketball Federation

COLOGNE, Germany -- Dirk Nowitzki now has a number retired on two continents.

Nowitzki, the Dallas Mavericks' legend whose number 41 was raised to the American Airlines Center rafters last season, was similarly honored by the German Basketball Federation on Thursday during the opening day of EuroBasket 2022.

Nowitzki became the first German basketball player to have his number retired. The ceremony took place in front of a sellout crowd at Lanxess Arena, where his number 14 will hang forever, before Germany played France. Nowitzki played 153 international games for the German national team, playing for his country during the offseason for the vast majority of his 21-year NBA career. He earned MVP honors at EuroBasket 2005 and FIBA Basketball World Cup 2002, leading Germany to second- and third-place finishes, respectively. He also led Germany to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, an accomplishment he has said ranks among his proudest basketball moments, along with the Mavericks' 2010-11 championship.

"It was for me an unforgettable journey," Nowitzki told the crowd in German, waiting for "MVP!" chants to quiet before making his speech. "So many of you traveled to big events and supported us. It was an unforgettable journey with you, and I want to say thank you."

Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic, whose Slovenian national team beat Lithuania in the game immediately before Nowitzki was honored, watched the ceremony in a courtside seat between governor Mark Cuban and head coach Jason Kidd, Nowitzki's former teammate. Others in the Mavericks' contingent included general manager Nico Harrison, director of player health and performance Casey Smith and vice president Michael Finley, who starred for Dallas during Nowitzki's early years. Nowitzki specifically thanked Cuban, the only time he spoke English during the ceremony.

"You always supported me in playing every summer," Nowitzki said. "You knew it was important to me to represent country and I really appreciate that." Cuban told ESPN that the ceremony was, "Uplifting. So proud of him. It's always amazing when you see someone who works hard and is a good human achieve their dreams."