Amid perhaps the last week of his storied NBA career, Dirk Nowitzki a few mornings ago blurted to his wife, Jessica, a potential clue about his pending plans.
“I want to eat ice cream for breakfast.”
Mavericks legend Nowitzki, 40, strictly abstains from sugar in-season. Was this craving a desire to eat what he wants, when he wants, for the rest of his life? Or until he begins training for season No. 22?
If anyone besides Nowitzki knows The Answer that Mavericks fans anxiously await to hear, surely it’s Jessica Nowitzki, Dirk’s wife of nearly seven years.
During a rare interview, Jessica told The Dallas Morning News that she doesn’t know The Answer, either, but that Dirk is savoring every moment leading to Tuesday night’s home finale against Phoenix and, then, his perhaps-career-ending game Wednesday in San Antonio.
“There’s a lot of emotions, obviously,” she said. “There’s a lot of people asking questions and he’s trying to see, ‘Is there another year in my back pocket? Or am I done?’
“So we’re just going to have to wait and see, but I think for now, once the season is over, he’s going to enjoy having some ice cream in the morning.”
This season, Nowitzki’s NBA-record-tying 21st, has produced a full range of emotions for Dirk and, of course, Jessica.
There have been on-court struggles but also indelible moments. The ovations in arenas throughout the NBA. On Jan. 30, Nowitzki scored a then-season-high 14 points in perhaps his last game at Madison Square Garden.
Then he received a surprise invitation to play in the All-Star Game in Charlotte, his 14th, where he made all three of his 3-point attempts in just 3:58 of court time, with Jessica rising with fans on every make.
On March 18, during a home game against New Orleans, Nowitzki surpassed Wilt Chamberlain and became the No. 6 scorer in NBA history.
Five days after achieving that milestone, Nowitzki scored 21 points as Dallas routed two-time reigning NBA champion Golden State in Dirk’s final game at Oracle Arena, which the Warriors are departing after this season.
Unknown to fans, that was the first road game ever attended by the Nowitzkis’ three young children — daughter Malaika, 5; Max, 4; and Morris, 2.
Sublimely, Dirk’s season-best performance occurred on Max’s birthday, not that Max fully grasped what Papa had done as he ran to him after the game, when Dirk emerged from the locker room.
“He actually came to see Steph (Curry), probably,” Nowitzki joked, referring to the Warriors’ star. “Steph ended up not playing. When I told (Max) about that pregame, I don’t think he was hyped about that.”
Dirk and Jessica naturally have cherished these moments, acutely aware that a storybook chapter in their lives might be nearing the last pages.
On Tuesday, when Dallas County Commissioners decreed April as the Month of Dirk, Jessica’s voice cracked and tears came to her eyes as she accepted the proclamation on Dirk’s behalf.
“I think it was a moment, kind of a flash, of what’s to come,” she said. “A lot of emotions, with the season winding down and 21 years in Dallas. I think he’s just done so much for the community and the city’s just embraced him that I think it’s beautiful that he’s receiving such great love from everyone.”
This season hasn’t been what Nowitzki envisioned when he decided to miss last season’s final four games to have left ankle surgery and get a head start on preparing for this one, in which he would break the NBA record for most seasons played for only one franchise.
Late in the summer, a tendon in his left foot became inflamed, causing him to miss training camp and the season’s first 26 games. Nowitzki says that by the time he played his first game, on Dec. 13 at Phoenix, “I was behind the eight-ball.”
Playing limited minutes and coming off the bench for the first time since his rookie season, Nowitzki struggled to regain his rhythm of last season, when he averaged 12 points and shot 41 percent from 3-point range.
“He was really taking it day-by-day, a lot of rehab and just trying to get back to playing and feeling great,” Jessica said. “There was obviously a lot of disappointments and frustrations, but those setbacks, I think any athlete can go through that any time in their career.
“It happens and then you pick yourself up. For us, we were just there to support him and stay positive and cheer him on. He did such a great job. Being 40 years old in this league, I’m seeing these young guys are blowing by him, yet he still can keep up.
“It’s mental, also, obviously. You keep thinking in your mind that you’re a certain age or you’ve done this for X amount of years. I think he overcame that.”
Jessica says she always has made a point not to talk basketball at home. She compares it to attorneys coming home in the middle of big cases and not wanting to relive every detail with their spouses.
Dirk and Jessica began dating in 2010, shortly after they met at a charity event during that February’s NBA All-Star weekend in Dallas.
Jessica Olsson, the daughter of a Kenyan mother and a Swedish father, was an art gallery employee who had been living in Dallas for about five years when she met Dirk.
Mavericks president Donnie Nelson describes Jessica as “a life-changer for Dirk, in a lot of respects,” bringing balance to his life. Nelson doesn’t think it’s an accident that the Mavericks broke through and won their only NBA championship during the first year of Dirk and Jessica’s relationship.
They were married in July 2012.
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SOURCE: SportsDay – Brad Townsend