It's one of the enduring images from the NBA Finals celebration: Dirk Nowitzki hopping over the scorer's table and running to the back while his teammates mobbed each other on the court. At the time, a lot of us thought "where the hell is he going?"
SPIEGEL: The game was still going on when you fled. There were still a couple of seconds on the clock.
Nowitzki: I only know that many of our PR people ran after me. They yelled: "Stay here. You can't do that. The trophy is going to be presented." I said: "I don't want it." I got into the shower, pressed my face into a towel and began to cry. Then I heard them yelling again. "Dirk!" I said: "They should give it to someone else." Not exactly worthy of a champion, is it?
SPIEGEL: After you calmed down, you received the trophy as a team captain should.
Nowitzki: Yes, thank God. It was close.
I hate to put terms like "must read" on things, but I think reading this interview will be worth your time. Dirk is such a private person, its hard to get a read on what kind of person he really is. But this interview really sheds some light on the real Dirk Nowitzki. I particularly like this:
SPIEGEL: Is your new role as a role model for America too big?
Nowitzki: Not if it has only to do with my sport. Every young player can ask me for advice. I like giving guidance. It is this principle which guides me as the captain of the Mavericks. I am not the type to turn on music in the locker room or to hold long speeches. Others can play the clown. But I am always approachable, for everybody. Still, I'm also not going to play the big man and try to convert other players. Who knows if my way is the right one?
It's a very Taoist "no one way is the right way" kind of statement. It conveys an open-mindedness. Giving advice when asked but not pushing someone towards a particular path is an admirable quality that few people have.
One more excerpt that I have to pass along without (hopefully) ruining the entire interview: Dirk on why he doesn't do endorsements.
Nowitzki: There certainly isn't a shortage of offers. You wouldn't believe how many watch manufacturers have sent me their models. Just like that. I give them all away. I am satisfied with what I have. How crazy do you have to be when you can afford everything but still clutter up your life with all sorts of advertising appointments? No thanks.
Pardon the shot at LeBron James here, but I feel the need to compare and contrast. In one person, you have a comfort level and confidence to be who he is, not push himself on anyone, and not pitch everything that comes along. In another, you have an overbearing cockiness that usually hides an underlying insecurity, and a stated goal of becoming a billionaire mogul with his hands in everything.
Just interesting to see the other side of the spectrum in the NBA. And very interesting to get a look at the person behind the player in the #41 Mavs jersey.