Lord Dirk Werner Nowitzki is 36 years old today, which means a number of things. First, yes, wipe away the single tear you just shed as you realized one of the NBA’s most lethal scorers is another year closer to The End. But before you get too down, just look at Tim Duncan’s career stats post-35, and find solace in the fact that Dirk’s offensive game is built to age fairly well.
Since entering the league at the ripe age of 20, Nowitzki has put the ball in the basket more effectively than the unimpressed 1998 NBA Draft attendees ever would’ve suspected. He’s put up 21 points in 13 of his 16 pro campaigns, and was transcendent as one of the league first Euro-style big men—a 7-footer with consistent shooting range.
The most recognizable element of that shooting range now may as well be named after him. The one-footed fadeaway from 17 feet is the shot that’s made Nowitzki a very rich man, and one that few players can ever replicate.
There was a time where certain members of NBA elite were quick to label him “soft.” There was a time where he would supposedly never win when it mattered. But with 12 All-Star appearances, an MVP award and a ring on his finger, this 36 year-old has earned his space in NBA lore forever.
Ahead, in celebration of the Big German’s 36th, we recap the most memorable video footage of Dirk’s signature shot.
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Buzzer-Beater vs. Sixers - 1/19/2009
Just one in a long line of Dirk buzzer-beating daggers, Nowitzki sank this one with Reggie Evans draped all over him from the get-go. With just four seconds to work with, Dirk took three dribbles left, stopped, and span, and broke out the magic. The agony in Philly’s broadcast of this one makes it even more powerful.2 of 11
Buzzer-Beater vs. Pacers - 3/20/2009
Dirk broke out the dramatics later that season on the Indiana Pacers, this time only seconds after T.J. Ford thought he’d just sent the game to overtime with just a few ticks left on the clock. Nowitzki then came back with a patented leaning jumper to regain the lead with a second to spare, beginning a 9-4 stretch to end the regular season and knock off the Spurs in the first round.3 of 11
Breaking American Hearts
This one comes off as a more routine Dirk fader, but the context plants this one on the list. Over Andre Miller (before he was certified Grandfather of the NBA), Dirk drilled this turnaround and-one, the earliest example of Dirk being Dirk that the internet has to offer. He’d finish up with 34, but USA wound up taking the FIBA game in blowout fashion, 104-87.4 of 11
Buzzer Beater vs. Raptors 2/25/2006
You see, Dirk’s been prospering this way for a long time now. Eight seasons ago, he broke this one out on the Toronto Raptors to boost Dallas’ record to 44-11. They’d reach the Finals later that year, losing to Miami in six games.
Here, Dirk went to work on an unsuspecting Matt Bonner with just seconds left in overtime. Bonner gave him a step, and never stood a chance. Dirk versus Matt Bonner: the basketball equivalent of Mac OS X versus MS-DOS.5 of 11
Dirk Beats the Buzzer (but not the Heat) in the ’06 Finals
Even before Dirk was a champion, the man was getting it done in the biggest spots. During the 2006 playoffs, he averaged 27 points, 12 boards and three assists. Here, in Game 1, Nowitzki drilled a 17-footer at the halftime horn to put Dallas up by two, in a game they’d eventually take by 10. Shaq, D-Wade and Miami went on to win the chip in six, though, and Dirk would need to wait five more years for his highest glory.6 of 11
Dirk Fades the Knicks at MSG - 2/24/2014
This past Knicks season was filled with hilarity and madness—usually favoring the opponent—and Feb. 24 was no different. Dallas trotted into MSG to take on a Knicks squad desperate for a victory in front of its home fans. Tied at 108 with 10 ticks remaining, Dirk received a feed at the top of the key, where Carmelo Anthony played five seconds of impeccable on-ball defense. Out of desperation, Dirk threw up an awkward J over Anthony’s head, clanking off glass, front iron, and finally falling through nylon, to perfectly capture (a) his own greatness and (b) the hilarious mediocrity of the 2013-14 Knicks.7 of 11
Ridiculous And-1 vs. Suns – 3/10/2009
Just look at this, man. Dirk gets the ball at the elbow, and Jason Richardson wisely tries to use his bulging stomach to his advantage. But J-Rich bites on a fake, leaves his feet—basically lands on Dirk’s legs—and dude still buries the 15-footer without touching rim.8 of 11
And-1 vs. Lakers in 2011 Playoffs
To reach the 2011 Finals, Dirk’s Mavericks needed to get past the two-time defending champion Lakers in the West’s second round. Dallas shockingly blew past the Lake Show in Phil Jackson’s final games as an NBA head coach, sweeping them four games to none.
To help close out Game 2 of that series, Dirk blessed us with this and-one fader from 15 over Pau Gasol. It put the Mavs up 13 with just minutes left, en route to the 93-81 victory.9 of 11
Back-to-Back Trademarks against OKC in 2011 Playoffs During an Insane Comeback
After knocking off the two-time defending champs in the second round, Oklahoma City loomed in the Western Conference Finals. OKC seemed poised to tie the series at two games when it led Dallas by 12 with just four minutes remaining. But, with help from his teammates, Dirk’s 40 points—highlighted by these two near-impossible looks for anyone not named Nowitzki—tied the score by the end of regulation. Dallas won the overtime 11-4, and earned a trip to the Finals with a Game 5 victory two days later.10 of 11
Dirk Ices the 2011 Finals against Miami in Game 6
In their first season together, the Miami Heat’s Big Three faced Dirk’s Mavericks group in the 2011 Finals—and fell in six games. Nowitzki took home MVP honors as the Mavs completed the first successful title run in franchise history. To seal the series, Dirk put Dallas up by 10 with just two minutes to play, all but clinching that championship ring that had eluded him for 12 seasons prior.11 of 11