SCORING LEADER DIRK SET FOR GERMAN RETURN

Dirk Nowitzki has declared his intention to return to the German national team for next summer’s EuroBasket. 

It comes as the Dallas Mavericks forward became the highest scoring non American-born player in the history of the NBA, overtaking Hakeem Olajuwon at the head of the list, as he racked up 23 points in a 106-98 victory over the Sacramento Kings, taking his overall tally to 26,953.

But Nowitzki, who last played internationally at EuroBasket 2011, has revealed he recently had dinner with Los Angeles Clippers forward Chris Kaman, with both potentially ready to turn out in September 2015 when one group stage will be held in Berlin – and with the possible prize of Olympic qualification also at stake.

“I have it on my plans,” the former NBA MVP said. “It’s great for Germany and German basketball that we have a major tournament in our home country. But I’ve got to get through this season, a gruelling NBA season, 82 games and hopefully a long playoff run. And then we’ll see how my health is next summer.

“I’ll have turned 37. And I’ll make a decision together with the federation. But as of now, I have it on my plans and it will be really fun.”

He would be among a number of European players from the NBA turning out – and amid a huge contingent now making it across the Atlantic, a huge change from the Wurzburg native landed, unheralded, in Dallas in 1998.

“When I first came into the league, it was sporadic here and there, one or two,” he recounted. “Now there’s six or seven on one team. It’s been fun to see. Everybody knows international players are well trained. The skill level is high usually. They can play. But what helped international players succeed in this league was the rule change, (allowing) the zone, taking away the hand checks.

“It’s made it easier for international players to adapt to the game. It’s more like a European game, pick and roll, movement, everybody has to know how to shoot from the outside. That’s helped me succeed in my career because it’s more of a free flowing game now.”

 

He now sits ninth on the list of all-time NBA leading scorers with 26,953 points. Kobe Bryant is the only other active NBA player in the top 10 and he is fourth with 31,887 points. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar still tops the list with 38,387 points and Michael Jordan sits third.

“It’s an honour,” said Nowitzki, who scored a midrange shot with 8:56 remaining in the game to pass Nigerian-born Olajuwon. “To do it at home, it was even more special. Getting a standing ovation, it was great.”

“Hakeem, to me, was one of the greatest. I grew up watching him in the 90s. His footwork, his touch, was next to no other. I’m really humbled to keep climbing the ladder, blessed to stay healthy, and play at a semi-high level, I guess.”

Olajuwon became a American citizen during his career, in 1993, and played for the United States, winning Olympic gold in 1996.

A number of other players sitting high up the scoring list – including Tim Duncan, Rolando Blackman and Patrick Ewing – were also born outside the USA but were capped internationally by the States.

Top non-US international scorers in NBA (CAPS indicates player is active)

1. DIRK NOWITZKI, GERMANY (26,953)
2. STEVE NASH, CANADA (17,387)
3. PAU GASOL, SPAIN (16,750)
4. TONY PARKER, FRANCE (16,185)
5. Detlef Schrempf, Germany (15,761)

Photo: NBAE/Getty

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