The first time the NBA saw a European become a star in the league was back when Drazen Petrovic was making headlines with the Nets. Unfortunately, he never had a chance to show his true potential as he was killed in a car accident in 1993. The NBA would continue to see more and more European players enter the league even after Drazen's death, but they were never able to match the star power that he had. That is, until a German by the name of Dirk Nowitzki entered the league.
Nowitzki entered the league back in 1998 when he was chosen by the Milwaukee Bucks with the ninth overall pick. However, he was immediately traded to the Dallas Mavericks on draft day in exchange for Robert Traylor. Prior to entering the NBA Draft, Nowitzki declined several offers from colleges who were interested in acquiring him. He became a prep-to-pro player who decided to immediately pursue an NBA career, and this was pretty rare back then.
Dirk struggled during his rookie season and many thought that he was a complete draft bust. However, he refused to give up and by his second year in the league, his statistics had greatly improved. Playing under the guide of Don Nelson, Dirk was quickly becoming one of the league's rising stars. He became a part of the Dallas' Big Three, which consisted of himself, Steve Nash, and Michael Finley. The Big Three were nearly unstoppable on offense and helped lead the Mavs to the playoffs for five consecutive seasons (2000-2004).
But Nowitzki would eventually find himself the only remaining piece of the Big Three by the 2004 season as his close friend Steve Nash had become a free agent and signed with the Phoenix Suns. The task of becoming the team's leader was now placed on Dirk's shoulders and although he struggled adjusting to the leadership role at first, he has since taken it in stride.
Under his leadership, the Mavs would make their very first NBA Finals appearance in 2006 where they would lose to the Miami Heat in six games. He would receive a chance at redemption, as the Mavericks would make their second finals appearance in 2011 against the very same team that beat them back in 2006. This time though, the result would be different as the Mavs came out on top and Dirk finally won his first NBA championship.
Through the years, Dirk has become one of the most unstoppable players in the league because of his versatility. Once his career comes to an end, he will be regarded as the greatest European player to have ever step foot in the NBA.
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