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NEW ORLEANS -- Dirk Nowitzki reached a major milestone before finally using a razor again Sunday night.
Nowitzki became the 17th member of the NBA's 25,000-point club during the Mavs' 107-89 win Sunday against the New Orleans Hornets. Then he shaved off the ridiculously bushy beard he's been growing for more than two months as part of a pact he made with several teammates not to shave until the Mavs hit .500 again.
|Dirk Nowitzki celebrates after scoring his 25,000th career point during the first half against the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday.|
Was it sweeter to shave or to join such historically exclusive company?
"I'm not sure," Nowitzki said with a smile after his 19-point performance helped the Mavs improve to 40-40. "That's a toss-up."
The 34-year-old Nowitzki definitely wasn't downplaying what he referred to as "an unbelievable accomplishment," joining the Lakers' Kobe Bryant and the Celtics' Kevin Garnett as the lone active players with 25,000 career points.
After surpassing the milestone with a midrange jump shot over Hornets center Robin Lopez at the 6:44 mark of the second quarter, Nowitzki put his right index finger high in the air as the Mavs' bench erupted in applause.
"I was just happy to get it over with and see the whole bench get up and salute me," Nowitzki said. "That was a special feeling. Yeah, it was a great milestone, and like I said, once I look back on my career, this is going to be special."
After shaving his beard, which he did immediately after getting to the visitors locker room after the win, Nowitzki reminisced about when he first arrived in the NBA as a 19-year-old straight out of Wurzburg, Germany. He struggled as a rookie, uncertain he could make it in the NBA, but credited former Dallas coach Don Nelson for having confidence in his unconventional game.
"I think not a lot of coaches, or maybe none, would have had a 7-footer out there shooting 3s," Nowitzki said. "That was right up his alley, so obviously that gave me a lot of confidence. The rest is history."
Nowitzki is widely considered the sweetest-shooting 7-footer in NBA history. He developed into an all-around scoring threat, adding a post-up game, the ability to drive and an arsenal of fadeaway shots, allowing him to average 22.6 points per game during a 15-year career that has featured 11 All-Star appearances, an MVP campaign and a Finals MVP award earned when the Mavs won the 2011 championship.
"He's a player who has revolutionized the game in many ways," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "He's the only 7-foot-1 guy who has ever played the game the way he does, and that is by being good around the basket, being great in midrange and being great a long distance away, driving it, having the ability to shoot any kind of off-balance shot possible.
"He's not only a great player, he's an innovator and a pioneer in this game. He'll go down in history as one of the guys that really changed the game."
Nowitzki is one of only nine players in NBA history with at least 25,000 points and 9,000 rebounds, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O'Neal, Moses Malone, Elvin Hayes, Hakeem Olajuwon and Garnett.
This has been the most frustrating season of Nowitzki's career. His recovery from preseason arthroscopic knee surgery caused him to miss the first 27 games -- three times as many as he'd ever missed in a season -- and was a major reason why the Mavs' 12-year playoff streak ended.
Nowitzki is averaging 17.2 points per game this season -- his lowest amount since his rookie year -- and didn't begin feeling like himself until around the All-Star break. The Mavs fell 10 games below .500 in mid-January, and the .500 beards pact was made later that month, much to the chagrin of Nowitzki's newlywed wife, Jessica, whom he joked hasn't kissed him since February.
"I might get a kiss tonight," said the clean-shaven Nowitzki, whose luggage for the flight home included the ball he put through the hoop for the 25,000-point milestone.