EHere is a recording of the great Dirk Nowitzki, which shows him making his first official appearance as a player in the NBA. The picture, taken when he was introduced as a Dallas Mavericks player in 1998, could hardly be “more nineties”. Nowitzki wears an oversized suit, a gold earring and a kind of boy band hairstyle with a center parting. Next to him is Steve Nash, who is also newly signed up, with bleached ends of his hair. To this day, the picture is often used when it comes to addressing the early years of Nowitzki’s ultimately grandiose athletic career. And always explaining how difficult this basketball icon had in its first season in the American professional league.
Franz Wagner’s first appearance in the NBA is also well documented. It was “Draft Day”, the day of the great talent raffle in June of this year. In the accompanying photo, Wagner is standing with the cap of his new team, the Orlando Magic, shaking hands with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and is beaming. What people will one day think about Wagner’s golden yellow suit or his goatee remains to be seen. But it is already clear that you cannot then follow the story of the newcomer who struggled.
Because Wagner plays big in his first season in the best basketball league in the world. In the night of Wednesday with about 38 points in the game against Master Milwaukee Bucks. No other newcomer to the league had managed more this season. Never more than a German in a premier season in the NBA. Nowitzki also got “only” 29 points at that time. In the history of the Magic franchise, only two “rookies” scored better. One of them was the phenomenal Shaquille O’Neal.
All of this shows the spheres in which Wagner is already moving. You are always doing an injustice to athletes when you compare them to their predecessors. But the fascination of sport lives in no small part from its history and stories. The historical classification of Wagner’s achievements therefore at least shows how high these are to be assessed.
Especially since he also comes off brilliantly in comparison with his contemporaries. Of all the newcomers to the league, Wagner currently has the best points average (15.6 per game), also played most games and always convinced with all those skills that are not reflected in the statistics. He has a chance of winning the prestigious “Rookie of the year” award, albeit as an outsider. Here, too, he would be the first German to succeed.
Even now, however, Wagner’s strong start has confirmed a thesis that has long been held in basketball circles. Because although an athlete’s career is characterized by too many imponderables to be able to make a reliable forecast about his future today. One statement is correct in any case: someone is playing here who has the potential to mature into a formative leader in German basketball in the years to come. Just like the boy with the 90s hairstyle.