– Dirk Nowitzki is one
of the greatest players in NBA history. And he had some legendary
playoff performances for the Dallas Mavericks. The crown jewel, winning finals MVP as the Mavs took down Miami’s big three to win the 2011 NBA championship. But before that triumph, in the middle of Dirk’s
Hall of Fame calibre career, at what could’ve been its peak, came a valley so low, so
surprising and embarrassing, that some wondered if
he’d ever get over it. You can’t truly appreciate Dirk’s glory without plumbing the
depths that preceded it. This is Dirk Nowitzki’s
worst playoff game. (tense string music) May 3rd, 2007. Oakland, California. Game six between the Mavericks and the Golden State Warriors. The excitement was palpable. The eight seeded Warriors were at home looking to close out what would be one of the greatest
upsets in sports history. A first round victory over the mighty Mavs who were reigning Western
Conference champions, owners of a league best
67 regular season wins and employer of the likely MVP, Dirk. These Warriors were an undersized, fast paced, band of misfits. Coached by former Mavs
innovator, Don Nelson, and lead on the floor by
the delightful Baron Davis. Golden State got really hot
late in the regular season after acquiring Stephen
Jackson and Al Harrington who would key a front
court, lacking in height but overflowing with buckets. But even still, no one
genuinely expected them to challenge these Mavs until game one when Davis looked far better than Nowitzki who shot just four of 16. Golden State won in a blowout
and suddenly the possibility of a historic upset was in the air. The favorite and the underdog
split the next four games with Dirk finally looking like himself down the stretch of a do
or die game five Mavs win. And to continue dodging
disaster in this game, Dirk would have to step up in
a thunderous road atmosphere. The building was practically shaking. 20000 people in bright
yellow We Believe shirts, really did believe Golden State could become the first NBA eight seed to beat a one seed in
a best of seven series. And the crowd was
studded with celebrities. Snoop Dogg was there,
Carlos Santana was there, Niners legends like Ronnie
Lott and … Alex Smith were there. You weren’t there, but me and Dupree were. This place was nuts but
if there were any moment for Dirk to bust his little
playoff opening slump and show why he was the MVP
front runner it was here. With everyone watching
and everything at stake. He opened things up with a brick. In fact, it was Jerry Stackhouse
keeping the Mavs alive with some corner threes
while Dirk missed all four of his early field goal attempts and just threw the ball away at the end of the first quarter. You would think the seven
foot sweet shooting Dirk could feast on the smaller
Golden State defenders, but Dirk’s old friend Nelly
had his players fronting and doubling the big guy, doing everything to annoy him and force
the ball out of his hands. After missing his first eight shots, Dirk finally just threw
a fronting Stephen Jackson to the ground to get an open look. Dallas was down just two at half, but Dirk was having a rough, rough night. It made one wonder if he’d
ever whiffed this much in so important a playoff game. In 2001 Nowitzki shot just
three of 13 for nine points in a blowout game one loss to the Spurs, but that was Dirk’s first ever playoff run and that kicked off a
dominant Spurs series victory. It hardly mattered. In game six of 2003’s first round matchup with the Blazers, Dirk shot two of 11 for just four points in 28 minutes, but he picked it up in game
seven and Dallas won the series. The Heat were able to turn
the 2006 finals around in part because of Dirk’s
dismal two of 14 outing in game four, but he got to the line a lot in that game and played
better the rest of the series even as the Mavs fell apart around him. And Dirk would go on
to have more stinkers. In the 2011 Western Conference finals he shot seven of 21 and turned
the ball over seven times. But the Mavs would win
that game, and the series, and eventually the championship, he would more than make up
for that one bad outing. But in 2007, the Mavs were
the best team in the NBA, Dirk was in his prime and all
of that would be for naught if he couldn’t pull himself
together and lead Dallas back from a surprising three
two series deficit. But to open the second half,
he was really pressing. The Warriors were still sending
swarms of smaller defenders when Dirk got the ball so
his first semi-clean look at the rim produced a
super rushed attempt. The Warriors started to pull
away in the third quarter and Dirk was struggling
to even possess the ball against the smaller and
more mobile Jackson. It was grim, and it was made extra grim by how useless Dirk
looked on the other end. Avery Johnson coached a top five defense but Dallas still couldn’t figure out where to put Dirk against
all those shooters. Johnson either put the Mavs in the a zone or had Dirk sag way way off his man over ball screens which backfired horribly because he was guarding Jackson, who seized the open looks to reach five of five from downtown, then six of six, then seven of seven. When Dirk got switched onto
an ever smaller player, he got embarrassed. Baron Davis’s hamstring was messed up and he still torched Nowitzki, twice. Clumsy rotations left
Dirk to get crammed on by Matt Barnes or to frantically close out against Mickael Pietrus who killed him. It took until the fourth quarter, when the Warriors had
basically put the series away for Dirk to hit his
second basket of the game. The announcers foresaw a
pretty miserable off season. – [Announcer] Unless
there is a dramatic turn, this will be just a horrendous off season for Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks. – Dirk stayed out there
for the last few minutes of this blowout, bricking one more three in front of the delirious crowd. The game ended. He gave his former coach a hug. His final scoring line in 38 minutes, two of 13 from the field, O of six from downtown, eight points. Fewer points than Maurice
Ager scored in 12 minutes. Dirk wanted to disappear but
he couldn’t do it for long. Because even though the NBA’s MVP award is based on regular season performance, the announcement and
trophy ceremony take place in the middle of the playoffs. And it took just days
for reports to surface that Dirk was indeed the 06-07 winner. On May 15th, while the
Warriors were in the middle of a series against the Utah Jazz, Dirk was summoned back to
American Airlines center to receive his trophy. So how does it feel, Dirk? – It’s a great day. Great honor to be here. – [Narrator] Okay, is that it? – Still a little sad
about how things happened in the post season. – [Narrator] Yeah, I’m sorry, man. It’s hard to watch Dirk try
to keep his enthusiasm up in this press conference
and I can’t really tell whether Mark Cuban was choking up because he was proud or just really sad. – He’s the guy that hurts so much when things don’t go the way he wants. And that’s what makes him
an MVP of this league. – That awkward scene makes you wonder if other regular season
MVPs have fallen that short in the playoffs, and in fact they have, but not quite like Dirk. Here are the other league MVPs whose teams didn’t make it past the first round of the playoffs. Kareem won MVP in his first year in LA, but that was a transitioning Lakers team that didn’t even make the playoffs. The Rockets lost in the first round after Moses Malone’s first two MVP seasons but those were two middle
of the road Houston squads, neither loss was a huge upset. The same goes for the Thunder who were a 6th seed when
MVP Russell Westbrook failed to lead them
out of the first round. So of these MVPs who didn’t
win a playoff series, Dirk really sticks out as a surprise. He’s the only one who
played a league best season on a league best team, then fell short. Obviously enough time has passed that Nowitzki can appreciate this honor. He was the first Maverick
and the first European player to win the award. But that loss to the
Warriors was so painful and so fresh when Dirk
found out he’d won MVP, that he initially didn’t want the award. And after he sucked it up
and accepted the trophy, he got as far away from
basketball as possible. Dirk spent a huge chunk of his summer wandering the Australian
Outback with his mentor. Drinking by a campfire,
asking himself why me? He didn’t shave or shower,
he slept in hostels and cars and sometimes he literally
just let himself drift out to sea. Back in the States, people
called him a choker, soft, not a real leader. John Hollinger even
snuck him into his list of players who might be on the decline. And for a few years, the
disappointments kept coming, until 2011, when Dirk won it all. That shredded all doubt
that he was a Mavs legend, one of history’s greatest players, and perfectly capable of
leading a team all the way. – [Announcer] The
emotions of Dirk Nowitzki. What he’s always dreamed of,
hoping to have another chance. – [Narrator] It ensured the
giant sweet shooting German would have a legacy of glory and dignity. That the lowest point of his
career wouldn’t define him. And thank God for that, because this night in 2007 was one of the most unexpected, exciting outcomes in basketball history. But someone had to be its victim, and more than anyone else,
that was Dirk Nowitzki. (tense string music)