But I have never talked to him, and never had any sense of what he was really like.
Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News has pulled back the curtain quite a bit with his lengthy profile of Nowitzki. We learn about Nowitzki's second mother -- a Mavericks employee who helps him keep his affais together. We learn about his "entourage," who are a bunch of Maverick employees. We learn about his new house, where he claims to be undefeated in ping pong, and recently had a flood in his "shoe room."
We also learn that Nowitzki was hiding something during last year's playoffs:
... while the top-seeded Mavericks were getting shocked by Golden State in the first round of last spring's playoffs, the public never knew that Nowitzki's father, Jörg, was undergoing surgery in Dallas.
Six months later, with the Mavericks commencing the 2007-08 season tonight at Cleveland, Nowitzki didn't mention his father's surgery during a lengthy sit-down interview for this story. The topic surfaced during subsequent interviews with his family and friends.
"It was not easy for him to deal with the pressure of the playoffs and my dad's surgery at the same time," Dirk's sister Silke e-mailed from the family's hometown of Würzburg, Germany. "But Dirk is good at being able to focus on his game when he is on the court."
Silke said her parents prefer not to disclose specifics about the surgery, but she did say Jörg, 64, "is doing a lot better now" back in Würzburg. "He changed his lifestyle and even stopped smoking after 50 years."
Later in the same article Nowitzki says:
"We all go through stuff in our lives," he said. "But obviously people pay a lot of money to see us play that night. They don't care what's going on in your life. They want to see you perform. We understand that."