Much like how the Mavs announce Dirk re-entering a game, I won’t even pretend to have an announcement or title that matches the moment, especially for when Dirk hit 30,000. The night started out with my stalwart co-season ticket holder Kirk and I watching warm-ups from the front row. It’s a privilege even the 300’s section people get to have every now and again. As we were sitting, I recognized the person sitting to my left was Milwaukee King legend Mike Wilks. I got to watch him in high school a little, he was phenomenal back in the day. He bounced around the NBA for a while and ended up as a scout for the Thunder. I talked to him for a minute about Milwaukee and how much I was a fanboy for him and other city players whenever they matched up with my beloved Tosa East. This dude wasn’t an NBA star, but he was a damn good basketball player and, it seems, an NBA lifer.
Kirk and I went on our way and grabbed some dinner before coming back to the arena just in time for introductions. We got a little extra louder like the rest of the crowd when Dirk was introduced, in anticipation of him possibly hitting 30,000 tonight with only 20 points to go. A kid, probably 11 or so, to my left was especially pumped. His mom and younger brother were there cheering as well, but you could tell that being there for this game and this moment was this kid’s idea. But, kid joy aside, as UD Groundhog legend Scully will attest, I am a sports pessimist and I naturally had the mindset that Dirk would hit the milestone on the night I left town for a trip and not on the night I would actually be there. I was hopeful, but subdued. And then the night started, splash, splash. Fist pumps and screams were in comically high abundance from a 37 year old grown ass man. When the first 3 hit I knew it could go down tonight. When he hit his season average 6 minutes into the game, it was evident that it was happening for sure.
He had all of his masterful fadeaways and spot ups going, but without his teammates force feeding him for the occasion like certain legends who shall not be named. He played within the game and took the most shots in the quarter, not because he was Dirk, but because he was hot. He was vintage Dirk in the 1st quarter and kept it rolling in the 2nd as the Mavs pulled away. And then he hit it. I high fived Kirk and took a look at the kid to my left and he just grinned and said, “This is a magical moment.” The precocious kid and his grasp of the moment had me thinking. As soon as I started yapping to Kirk about Dirk maybe getting 40 and telling the people around me that he might “Kobe” this game, Dirk sat. He sat at a time where he might be in normally, but he sat anyways. Why? The game was getting out of hand and like any other game this year where the Mavs had a precious early lead, he sat with the hope that he wouldn’t have to come back in.
The Mavs are in a battle for the 8th seed and while that may be laughable to title contending teams, it matters to these fans, this team and to this player. He needed his rest because there are 19 games left to prove that the Mavs are a playoff team. He’s quiet, he’s let the Mavs mold his contract to the needs of the team, he’s a team player in the body of one of the greatest players of all time. He acknowledged the crowd when he was supposed to with a few waves and that was it. Everything was aligned for this game to be about Dirk, but even though he did something even rarer than walking on the moon (Just to be clear, walking on the moon is way more important.), he made this game about the team and that’s the best accolade that we can throw his way, he’s a team player. The 8th seed means more to Dirk than 30,000 means to us and that’s why he’s our dude. He’s our NBA lifer.