Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Updated: December 22, 7:05 AM ET
Dirk Nowitzki passes Larry Bird
By Jeff Caplan
ORLANDO -- Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki passed Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird to move into 25th on the NBA's all-time scoring list Tuesday in the fourth quarter against the Orlando Magic.
Nowitzki, so often compared to Bird especially early in his career because of his looks and unstoppable jumper, entered Tuesday's game with 21,781 career points, 10 shy of Bird's total.
He recorded career point No. 21,792 on the opening possession of the fourth quarter, burying a 3-pointer, the shot he came into the league firing, but over the years has reduced from his repertoire. Nowitzki hit his first two shots and scored eight points in the first 7:13 of the game, but then went 17:05 without a point.
The German-born Nowitzki reached Bird's career total of 21,791 points slightly faster than the Celtics forward from French Lick. Bird retired after 13 seasons, while Nowitzki is playing in his 13th and is in the first season of a four-year, $80-million extension.
Bird was well aware of the situation.
"I just got a text message from Larry right as the game ended saying to congratulate Dirk and that he's always been a huge fan," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "They've had a chance to spend some time together. I'm sure he's going to text Dirk and I'm sure that will be very meaningful for Dirk."
Nowitzki, though, had yet to turn on his cell phone as he dressed following the Mavs' 105-99 win over the Magic Tuesday night for a back-to-back sweep of the Florida teams.
"I actually started off kind of hot and then just never got going anymore," Nowitzki said. "It's obviously an unbelievable accomplishment to a be a top-25 scorer in an amazing league with an amazing history, amazing players, so yeah, it's an unbelievable accomplishment."
Carlisle is in his third season with Nowitzki and he was Bird's teammate for three seasons in the mid-1980s, winning a championship in 1986. He sees more in common between the two than just their impeccable shooting.
"Both are extremely meticulous in their preparation, their dedication," Carlisle said. "The statistics are staggering, but both guys really were about winning first all the time. Dirk, if it was best for him to average 15 [points] and get eight or nine rebounds, if that was the best way to win he'd be all for that. Fortunately, for us he's an all-time great player like Larry was and we're trying to get to the top of the mountain."
It won't take long for Nowitzki to move up another spot on the all-time list. In all likelihood he'll catch Gary Payton (21,813) for 24th in Dallas' next game on Dec. 27 at Oklahoma City. Clyde Drexler is 23rd with 22,195 points.
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.