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Layups: Stay Soft, Dirk Nowitzki

Posted by Neil Paine on June 16, 2011

Here's a great piece about Dirk Nowitzki from Deadspin's Luke O'Brien, wherein he examines the media narrative about Dirk's "soft" game. Although we were told that Dirk had acquired a tougher style of play, is that really even true?

"Instead of everyone casting about for ways to explain Nowitzki's transformation now that he has a ring, we should celebrate the fact that he hasn't transformed at all. In being exactly who he's always been, he defies the silly notion in American sports that an athlete has to don armor, psychic or otherwise, to win a title. Nowitzki has never been the guy who screams into the upper decks like a maniac after each and-one. He's never tried to be. He's one of the best low post scorers in the NBA, but you'd never know it because he doesn't play with his back to the basket like other seven-footers. Instead of dunking opponents through the rim, he's mastered a step-back shimmy to get off a soft jumper that nobody can defend and that often leads to a free throw that almost always goes in. Softly. Nowitzki doesn't charge into battle. He fades away. And he wins because of it, not despite it."

As O'Brien notes, real courage comes in sticking with an unconventional style despite high-profile failures and media criticism. Dirk's conviction in his own "soft" style eventually vindicated it, and in a perfect world the media would admit they were wrong instead of inventing a false narrative about how Dirk changed at their behest.

153 Responses to “Layups: Stay Soft, Dirk Nowitzki”

  1. Keith Ellis Says:

    Hey, Ken --

    Established history says Russ beat Wilt. Of course Russ says he beat Wilt. Their matchup can be likened to Cowens/Jabbar, Daniels/Gilmore, or Reed/Wilt -- the smaller player beating the larger/stronger/more athletic man while racking up fewer pts/rebs/assists.

    Now, do I necessarily swallow that story? No. I think the Sixties Celtics were a better team than Wilt's Warriors, & that the Seventies Celts/Pacers/Knicks were better teams than the Finals rivals they slew. But bucking established history shouldn't be done lightly. Dipper himself admitted that had he played on the Sixties Celtics they mightn't have meshed & won as often as Russell's clubs breathtakingly did.

    Chemistry is as important as any aspect of hoops. Obviously, Michael Jordan needed Scottie Pippen in order for his clubs to post a .500 season, because MJ went oh-for-five w/out Scottie. The most "chemical" players I ever saw were Pippen, Russ, & Magic -- they could win games w/out scoring a point. Remember when Reggie Jackson's hip hit a throw to 2nd base & turned the '78 World Series around, allowing the Yanks to take four straight from LA? Jax said he deserved the MVP for that brilliant quick-thinking play, & he was right. But he didn't MVP in that Series because he didn't hit five HRs as he had in '77.

    Put in context for the whippersnappers, Dirk Nowitzki mayn't've put up stats in the '011 Finals to outshine LBJ or Wade. But his team's gameplan was superior, for the slothful pace played nowadays. Had such a slow team as the Mavs been playing in 1986 they'd've been run off the floor by the quicker-thinking top clubs of that era.

  2. Ken Says:

    Keith, you're confusing the titles that Russels teams won with Russell "confounding" Wilt.
    head-to-head numbers:
    Wilt and Russell played against each other 142 times in 10 years. Russell's team won 88, Wilt's teams won 74. (14 game difference)

    In those games Wilt averaged 28.7 ppg and 28.7 rpg, Russell averaged 14.5ppg and 23.7rpg

    Wilt's high game vs. Russell was 62, and he had six other 50+ point games against Russell . Russell's high game against Wilt was 37, and he had only two other 30+ point games against Wilt.

    Wilt's record 55 rebound game was against Russell, and he had six other 40+ rebound games vs. Bill.
    Russell only had one 40+ rebound night against Wilt.

    Wilt's teams lost all 4 seventh games against Russell's Celtics... (Russell's Celtics were 10-0 in game 7s during his career).

    The total margin of defeat in those four 7th games was nine points

    (begin the teammate argument because head-to-head is a no-contest)

    Russell was limited offensively, Wilt limitless. Now since I was right about the Russel/Wilt issue I'm just going to assume my memory is right about Jabbar/Cowens and not look it up. But you know what they say about assuming.

  3. Ken Says:

    Sorry Keith. I now went on to read the rest of your post.