Germany is basketball world champion. What was unthinkable some time ago is now a reality. This is also thanks to Dirk Nowitzki.
It’s been eleven years since Germany’s basketball players were only allowed to watch the Olympic Games in London. It’s been nine years since Germany missed the Basketball World Cup in Spain. It’s been eight years since Germany failed in the group stage at the European Championships in Berlin. The DBB selection was deregistered and played no role in the basketball cosmos internationally.
But the most important man was not on the pitch: Dirk Nowitzki.
“Dirkules” paves the way
The best player in German basketball history came to the NBA at a time when non-US Americans were a small minority. With his achievements he opened the door for many other Europeans who dominate the league today. This includes many German talents who earn their money in the USA. Since Nowitzki, scouts from US colleges and NBA teams have looked to Germany more often.
It is also thanks to Nowitzki that Moritz and Franz Wagner from Berlin made the leap into the NBA via the University of Michigan. The fact that Dennis Schröder and Daniel Theis from Lower Saxony got a contract in the US league was also due to the preparatory work by “Dirkules”.
Without the move to the NBA, the best league in the world, the players would not have been the ones who won the World Cup on Sunday. Nowitzki was also a big supporter of Dennis Schröder, the leader of this world champion team, from an early stage.
Nowitzki contacted Schröder before he was drafted into the NBA. “He told me that he would like to play with me for the next two years,” explained the current world champion at the time. Nowitzki kept his word and, at the advanced age of 37, reported ready for the 2015 European Championships at home. Even though it ended with a elimination in the preliminary round, Nowitzki handed the reins over to Schröder and gave him a lot.
“Dennis has to lead the game, do it quickly, put our shooters in position, pull them to the basket himself,” he told the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” at the time and made it clear that this team was now under Schröder’s leadership.
Nowitzki always believed in Schröder
Over the years, “Dirkules” has repeatedly praised the playmaker, who also had to take a lot of criticism. He is too selfish, too stubborn, not a team player. But Nowitzki trusted Schröder and described him in August 2017 as the “future of German basketball. He has developed extremely well and will be very, very important for German basketball.” Nowitzki turned out to be right.
He never lost touch with the team. Even when he won bronze at the European Championships last year, Nowitzki was always nearby. He also believed in the team at this year’s World Cup and encouraged them before the tournament: “We have one of the best squads you could wish for. For the World Cup we should have one of the best squads on paper.” He traveled to Japan, watched two German preliminary round games from the front row, and walked along the sidelines like a fan.
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