The laughter was the immediate response to Nowitzki's failed dunk attempt after a goaltending call midway through the first quarter of the Mavs' 117-116 double-overtime win over the Sacramento Kings on Monday. The 37-year-old 7-footer instantly looked toward the Mavs' bench after his gravity grounding, well aware that he'd be hearing a whole lot about that moment later.
"I didn't fully jump, but I still thought I jumped high enough to kind of squeeze it in and walk it off, but I guess I didn't," Nowitzki said in typical self-deprecating fashion. "That was probably my best play in the first half today, so I had that going for me."
Mavs center Zaza Pachulia was first in line to give Nowitzki flak. Their lack of leaping ability is a long-running source of humor in the Mavs' locker room, prompting them to make a friendly bet on who would finish the season with more dunks.
The official tally: Pachulia 9, Nowitzki 4, although it's actually considered even, as Nowitzki somehow convinced Pachulia to credit one dunk per every 10 3-pointers made. However, Pachulia insists that getting pinned on the rim takes a point off Nowitzki's total.
"We all agree that it's a minus one," Pachulia said, keeping a straight face. "It's embarrassing. I hate to do that to him. He works so hard to get his four dunks, but it's the game. It's the rule."
Nowitzki, who has already proven Pachulia to be a pushover, is not so sure about that.
"If that wouldn't have been a goaltend and I would have gotten hung like that during the game, for sure minus-one," Nowitzki said. "But since it was after the whistle, we'll let it slide. I'll talk to him on the plane."