We officially say goodbye to two of the NBA’s greatest from the 2000s: Miami Heat superstar Dwyane Wade and the German sniper Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks. From the jersey swap to the inaugural feel good roster spots in this year’s All-Star game, Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki brought joy to basketball fans everywhere while also reminding us of the harsh reality that all great players eventually have to retire. They would both cap off their final home games respectively with wins over the Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns. They both had great nights statistically scoring 30 points in their game. Why were neither of these games televised nationally? That mystery will never be solved. Here we’ll briefly look at Wade and Nowitzki’s Hall of Fame careers followed by the Starting 5 of the Let’s Be Real podcast (check us out on all podcast avenues, Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Radio.com, etc.) providing their favorite memory of Dwyane Wade and/or Dirk Nowitzki.
Dirk Nowitzki was drafted 9th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1998 NBA Draft, not the best draft class, but a solid one at best. He was immediately traded on draft night for Robert “Tractor” Traylor, who was taken 6th overall by the Mavericks. Dirk started out slow out of the gate, as does any international player who immediately comes over to the NBA, however he would come into his own. Nowitzki, along with another Hall of Famer Steve Nash and Michael Finley, turned the Mavericks into legit playoff contenders while becoming an All Star in the process. It wasn’t until 2006 after Nash and Finley departed that Dirk would get his first shot at a championship, losing in six games to…Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat. After his MVP campaign the following season was spoiled by the “We Believe” Golden State Warriors, doubters arose as we began to question whether Dirk could get it done and win it all. Then 2011 happened. Just go look at that 2011 playoff run the Mavericks put on (sweeping Kobe’s Lakers and avenging his finals loss to Dwyane Wade with LeBron James and Chris Bosh in tow). Dirk would finish his career with 14 All Star appearances, 12 All NBA teams, 1 MVP, and a very special (in my opinion) championship with Finals MVP to go along with it. Oh yeah and Dirk will finish sixth all time in scoring which is the highest among international players.
Dwyane Wade was taken 5th overall by the Miami Heat in the 2003 NBA Draft, a draft highly regarded as one of the best draft classes ever. Coming out of Marquette, Wade was an absolute beast. No one and I repeat NO ONE attacked the rim as hard as Wade. He was good right out the back, but was overshadowed, for lack of a better term, in the ROY race by Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. Wade may not have won ROY, but he proved himself in emphatic fashion with a playoff series win over the then New Orleans Hornets. As Wade’s game began to develop, the Miami Heat acquired Shaquille O’Neal via trade, ending the Shaq/Kobe era in LA. They would lose in the Eastern Conference Finals the next season; however, they were set for a potential championship run. Just watch the 2006 NBA Finals, plain and simple (Wade averaged almost 35 points per game in an all-time performance). You’ll see why Wade is one of the best and the third best two guard ever. Dwyane Wade became the face of Miami and put the world on notice that Miami was his house. Wade would add two additional championships to his resume in the Big 3 era with LeBron James and Chris Bosh. He would then spend time in Chicago and Cleveland showing flashes, no pun intended, of himself before finishing his career in Miami. Wade will finish with 13 All Star appearances, 8 All NBA teams, 3 All NBA Defensive teams, 2003-04 All-Rookie team, 1 scoring title, 1 All Star MVP, 3 championships, and a Finals MVP.
The Starting 5’s favorite memories:
Trevor: Dwyane Wade had the greatest individual performance ever in a NBA Finals. Dirk Nowitzki was the catalyst for the 2011 Dallas Mavericks squad who went on arguably the greatest playoff run in NBA history. However, I’ll ignore the obvious for Dirk and go with his shootout with Tracy McGrady back in 2004. T-Mac was in his first season as a Houston Rocket, and this was a nationally televised game on TNT. These two put on a complete clinic. McGrady finished with 48 points. Dirk finished with 53 points and the win in overtime. If no one knew then, everyone knew that Dirk was that dude from that point. For D-Wade, it’s obvious. The 2006 NBA Finals.
P. Shark: My memory of Dirk Nowitzki comes also in 2011 immediately following the 2011 NBA Finals. Nowitzki fighting tears after closing out Miami in game 6 was heartfelt, especially stemming from critics wondering if Dirk could ever win a ‘chip and of course what happened in 2006 and 2007. For Wade, my favorite memory of him is his herculean effort in game 4 of the 2010 Playoffs to avoid being swept by the eventual Eastern Conference champions, the Boston Celtics. In that game, Dwyane Wade had 46 points in an obvious must-win game on their home floor.
Tev: Knocking out LeBron James in the 2011 NBA Finals is my favorite Dirk memory. For Dwyane Wade, I have two. First memory is his performance in the 2010 All Star Game which was held in Dallas. Wade took home MVP honors with a game high 28 points and 11 assists. Another memory of Wade is him crossing over Eric Snow during a regular season game in which Snow fell and he claims to this day that he was pushed.
Skyler: My favorite memory of Dwyane Wade comes obviously from the NBA Finals in 2006. The performance he put on to lead the Miami Heat to their 1st championship was amazing. I also remember how great of a passer Wade was in his prime which was very much underrated. There’s a video highlighting specific alley-oop passes to LeBron James during the Big 3 era. Lastly, Dwyane Wade was a trendsetter in the fashion game as well. Dirk Nowitzki, in my mind, was the ultimate teammate. My memory of him is obviously from the 2011 Finals when he got revenge against Wade and the Heat, however it’s unrivaled at how great of a teammate Dirk was. He was always willing to sacrifice a big payday in order to position the Dallas Mavericks to improve.
Recurring guest Marcus Savage: My memory of Dwyane Wade goes back to 2009 in a regular season matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The scenario is this: LeBron James drives to the basket for a dunk, but is denied by Jermaine O’Neal. Dwyane Wade recovers the loose ball, goes the length of the court, and dunks on Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao for the And-1. Varejao falls over and Wade steps over him a la Allen Iverson in game 1 of the ’01 NBA Finals. Nowitzki on the other hand is an obvious one. Dirk taking down the newly formed Big 3 in Miami in 2011.
In the end, these two legacies will forever be immortalized especially for us who have watched them from the moment they stepped in the NBA. While we wish their farewell tours could continue through this year’s playoffs, sadly we have to settle for this. Miami just missed the playoffs with a couple losses down the stretch and the Dallas Mavericks are in rebuild mode with Luka Doncic and the newly acquired Kristaps Porzingis. The biggest moments in their careers are linked with one another and they did it all for one franchise which most fans will appreciate. Yes, Wade spent time in Chicago (his hometown) and Cleveland, but Let’s Be Real! His heart was always in Miami. For those who may not know or weren’t around during these guys’ prime, please do yourself a favor and just watch YouTube videos of these two in action. I will definitely miss Wade and Nowitzki and I cannot wait for their Hall of Fame induction. Farewell.
-Trevor Shipp, Co-host