“No loyalty in sports.”
That’s becoming a common reality in today’s world, especially in the NBA. Whether it’s a player deciding to leave a team that he’s been with his entire career, or an organization trading a player who’s been their franchise cornerstone for years, loyalty between players and teams is dwindling in the NBA and player mobility is heavily increasing.
There’s no better example than the biggest trade that recently happened in the NBA. The Toronto Raptors traded away their franchise cornerstone Demar Derozan for disgruntled Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard. While this may end up helping the team this upcoming season, it’s a huge risk given that Leonard, according to most NBA experts, is likely to leave Toronto for Los Angeles next summer, either with the Lakers or Clippers. On top of that, Derozan was reportedly told just a week earlier in a meeting with Raptors’ executives that he would NOT be traded.
That’s the cold-blooded business of the NBA. However, something happened earlier this week that shed’s a bit of light on this unfortunate reality and helps remind us that there can still be loyalty in this league.
Dirk Nowitzki, the Dallas Mavericks’ franchise leader in basically everything, signed a 1 year, $5 million deal to stay with the Mavs for a 21st consecutive season, passing Kobe Bryant for the all-time record for years with 1 franchise. While this deal was a foregone conclusion, the fact that it’s official and Dirk is making history with the Mavs once again really speaks volumes about the bond between the Mavericks and their superstar. Mark Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki have been the epitome of loyalty in the NBA throughout the last two decades, and Dallas is lucky to have witnessed this for such an extended period of time.
From Dirk’s side, the German legend has taken an incredible amount of pay-cuts throughout his career in Dallas that sum up to around $194 million, according to Business Insider in. Yes, you read that correctly. Nowitzki has given up 194 MILLION DOLLARS to help the Mavs succeed.
Not only has Dirk taken large pay-cuts, he has also been the perfect teammate and franchise cornerstone, never asking to be traded or ever thinking about signing with another team during free agency. Every deal Nowitzki has signed as a free agent has been an expected occurrence, even when other teams have attempted to pry him away. He never really even gave other teams a chance to sign him.
From Cuban’s side, the Mavs outspoken owner has always done everything he could to help give Dirk a supporting cast that would be able to win a championship, which finally payed off in the magical 2011 playoff run.
Cuban has also never thought about trading Dirk or allowing him to leave during free agency. Even in 2007, when Dirk told Mark that it was ok if he needed to trade him to acquire Kobe Bryant, who was arguably the best player in the game at that time and asking for a trade, Cuban would’t entertain the thought.
What makes this relationship even more special is that even now, during the twilight of Dirk’s career and a clear rebuild for the Mavericks, there is never a doubt that Nowitzki will continue to give Dallas everything he has to help the team during tough times. Dirk isn’t like other superstars that want to chase more rings at the end of their careers, or find a way to get the most money they can. He sticks with the franchise through thick and thin, and that’s what makes Nowitzki the most loyal star in the game today.
Now, Cuban and GM Donnie Nelson is trying to repay him by putting together a team that will compete for a playoff spot during what is likely to be the Big German’s last season in the NBA. After admittedly tanking the last two seasons, it would be such a fitting end to see Dirk’s career wind down while battling in the playoffs for the only team he’s ever known.
With all of the disloyalty among players and teams these days, whether it’s superstars leaving their franchises or GM’s trading away they franchise players, it’s great to see that someone like Dirk is still completely committed to the team he’s been with his entire career.