Dallas Mavericks superstar Dirk Nowitzki isn’t saying whether this season finally will be his last, but odds are that Sunday’s game at Target Center will be his last played there.
That’s not to say his game won’t live on long after he retires.
He has given the NBA and Mavericks 20 seasons — tied with Kobe Bryant for the longest in league history with the same team — as well as a contribution that will last after he leaves.
It’s a one-footed, fadeaway shot that everyone from four-time NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant to the WNBA Lynx’s Maya Moore has imitated.
Just as former NBA star Jack Sikma forever will be remembered for an unnatural catch-and-pivot move that still bears his name, Nowitzki will be forever known for that one-legged shot that uses his 7-foot height, a backward tilt and a little kick with the opposite leg to protect the ball and release the shot.
“I have not seen anyone block that shot yet,” Wolves big man Gorgui Dieng said.
Nowitzki says Michael Jordan, among others, used that shot before he did, but his height and reach have made it his own. Before all is done and said, Nowitzki will ride that move to more than 30,000 points, at least sixth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list and a bust in Springfield, Mass.
It is considered so unique because it is so unorthodox.
“I’m going to take a shot off one leg? What? ” said Wolves veteran guard Jamal Crawford, who has played 18 seasons with seven different teams. “You’re taught to shoot with your shoulders square, your feet square. It is what it is because he broke the laws of tradition.”
Dieng developed his own version when he worked with Nowitzki’s personal skills coach while he was in Germany during the summer of 2014 on his way to the FIBA World Cup. Towns has his own, practiced since his youth.
“I’ve grown up watching Dirk,” Towns said. “When I get to play Dirk, I always see a little bit of my childhood because my brother [his friend Vic] loves him to death. Every time I get to play him, it’s always cool.”
Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett transformed the game for big men — notably Towns with his new-age game — who came after them.
“Isn’t it crazy?” Towns asked. “The game has changed. There are pioneers, and Dirk definitely is one of them.”
Moore studied Nowitzki’s game these past four years and found such an unnatural move natural for her.
“He was the best in the world with that shot, let me study how he does it,” Moore said before referring to the 2017 WNBA Finals. “I’m an instinctual player when it comes down to it. I do a lot of things off instinct that might be unorthodox, like the shot I hit at the end of Game 5. One-foot movements are very natural to me. … There is a freedom in taking those kinds of shots. Thank you, Dirk, for inspiring me to master that shot.”
With one singular move, Nowitzki inspired players from another generation and from both sexes.
“Players are pretty amazing,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “They all study each other and when they see something that is effective, they add it to their game. Dirk always added something every year, and when he added that and people saw how effective it was, everybody else added it. As he has gotten older and maybe lost a little athleticism, he found other ways.
“It’s like a fastball pitcher throwing a changeup or a curve. It’s something different and he figured that out. That’s what makes him Dirk.”
• Evergreen Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki brings his famed one-footed fadeaway jumper to Target Center on Sunday perhaps for the last time, which poses this question about signature shots: Why doesn’t anybody shoot the skyhook that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar used to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.
“I do have one, I’ve had one for a while,” Wolves young star Karl-Anthony Towns said of the sky hook. “My dad taught me it when I was younger, saying that no one uses it, you should be using it. But I don’t have to use it if I don’t need to. When it’s needed, I’ll definitely pull it out. It’s not a hard shot. I’ve been doing it for years.”
If helps, of course, when you’re 7-2.
“It also helps when you can see the rim with goggles like his,” Towns said.
Abdul-Jabbar, the former Bucks and Lakers star, finished with 38,387 points. Former Jazz star Karl Malone has the second most with 36,928, and Kobe Bryant is third with 33,643.
Towns, with 4,079 career points in his third season, still has a ways to go.
• Timberwolves CEO Ethan Casson is part of a new 12-member NBA “Business and Basketball” committee intended to study ways to grow the game and the league’s revenues.
Six team presidents/CEO and six general managers will investigate “growth opportunities” at all levels from individual teams, leaguewide and globally for a league that has targeted growth in China and points elsewhere.
WOLVES’ WEEK AHEAD
Sunday: 6 p.m. vs. Dallas (FSN)
Tuesday: 8:30 p.m. vs. Philadelphia (FSN, ESPN)
Thursday: 7 p.m. vs. Sacramento (FSN+)
Saturday: 7 p.m. vs. Portland (FSN)
Player to watch: Ben Simmons, 76ers
Get your first look at the Rookie of the Year favorite, and the first power forward in a point guard’s body since Magic Johnson, Tuesday at Target Center.
“That shot may outlive him in a way. They’ll see it and be like, ‘Dirk did that 60 years ago.’ ”
— Wolves veteran guard Jamal Crawford on Dirk Nowitzki’s unorthodox, one-footed fadeaway.
Twitter: @JerryZgoda, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Blog: startribune.com/wolves. Staff writer Kent Youngblood contributed to this report.