Last night two great NBA careers ended. Both Dirk Nowitzki and Dwayne Wade played their last NBA games last night. And they both played pretty well. I think they are both doing the right thing walking away now, but both look like they could still contribute, albeit in a small way, to most NBA teams. But I wanted to take a minute today to congratulate both of them on their hall of fame careers.
That's right, both are surefire first ballot hall of famers. Dirk was the first Euro league player I saw that was that big and could shoot that well. He was 7 feet tall, but he played an outside game. He had a nasty pull up jumper. He could also elevate over smaller defenders, which was the majority of NBA players, and hit jumpers with ease. He was the first big guy that made jumpers fun. To see him do the things he did, at his height, amazed me. He was a less athletic KD. He was a stronger Manute Bol. He was a taller Karl Malone. And when he first was in the league, he did a go to the basket move. He, Steve Nash and Michael Finley were a ton of fun to watch when they were all on the Mavs. They ran a great fast break, with Dirk finding the open spot on or near the elbow, and Finley filling the lane. He also came back from some hardships on the floor. He won the MVP awhile back, and that team lost in the first round of the playoffs to the "We Believe" Warriors. But, Dirk came back next year and helped lead the Mavs to the title. The team they beat in that Finals, it was the first year Big Three Heat. The Mavs totally shut down LeBron, and Bosh was neutralized. This helped Dirk play top notch offense, and he led that team to its only title. He totally redeemed himself. And like I said before, he paved the way for big guys like KD and KAT and AD to want to shoot, and make, three pointers. He made the pull up jumper en vogue. If I heard Steph call him an innovator and an influence, I would totally buy it. Dirk was also a great teammate. You never heard anyone complain about him. He took on free agents and rookies like family. He seemed like a genuinely fun guy to be around. He was always good in interviews and on TV. He was the consummate pro. What I loved most about this final season though, he waited until the very end to let everyone know he was retiring. It seemed like a foregone conclusion, but he didn't want the hubbub or fanfare. He left the game like Tim Duncan, on his own terms.
As far as Dwayne Wade goes, he more than deserved his sendoff. I adored that he made this season a farewell tour. Prior to all that though, Wade was a killer and a winner. From his draft day slip to now, he has always played like he has something to prove. People seem to forget that he was the MVP in a Finals before LeBron joined up with him. Wade, and a much older and slower Shaq, beat the Mavs in 6 games to win a title, and Wade was the man in that series. Sure, there is some question to the officiating, but Wade did what he had to do, and dominated those Finals. It was his big time coming out party. It was when he ascended to superstardom. After that, he was always an all star, a perennial all NBA player, in talks as an MVP. He was one of the best shooting guards in the game, and one of the best shooting guards ever. Even when LeBron showed up, I still thought that Wade was the engine that made that team run. He did the veteran move and stepped aside, but without him, the Heat don't win those titles. He always had big time playoff games and would constantly remind the nation that he was a monster on the court. And even when he left Miami and joined LeBron back in Cleveland, he was still important. His one year with the Bulls he almost helped them upset the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. He then went back to Miami and helped them back to the playoffs with a team filled with no big named people. And while this final season didn't end in a playoff appearance, Wade played really well and seemed to enjoy every moment. I also love that Paul Pierce tried to claim he was as good as Wade, and he was not having it. Wade has better averages across the board, more titles and is much more important to the game than Pierce could've ever dreamed of being. And I think Pierce was a great NBA player, he just isn't Dwayne Wade great. Wade, like Nowitzki, was also a great teammate and a consummate pro. He was just more fun to watch, at least for me. I think it is awesome that he went out with a triple double too.
Last night saw 2 great careers end, but not in a sad way. They both went out on their terms, in their own personal ways, and I loved every second of their illustrious NBA career's. Enjoy retirement you 2, you both more than deserve it.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing, the other host of the X Millennial Man Podcast, and the greatest basketball writer on the internet.
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