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Lakers offer praise, reminisce about Dirk Nowitzki after statue unveiling

A statue of Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki by artist Omri Amrany is unveiled at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki talks with team owner Mark Cuban before Nowitzki’s statue is unveiled at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

A detailed view of the statue of Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki by artist Omri Amrany after being unveiled at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

A fan waits before a statue of Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki is unveiled at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

A view of the statue of Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki by artist Omri Amrany after being unveiled at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki speaks before his statue is unveiled at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki greets former teammate and current head coach Jason Kidd of the Mavericks before Nowitzki’s statue is unveiled at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers goes to the basket as Tim Hardaway Jr. #11 of the Dallas Mavericks defends in the first half at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers goes to the basket as Reggie Bullock #25 of the Dallas Mavericks defends in the first half at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers goes to the basket as Reggie Bullock #25 of the Dallas Mavericks defends in the first half at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots the ball against the Dallas Mavericks in the first half at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers brings the ball up the court against the Dallas Mavericks in the first half at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball as Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks defends in the second half at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks helps up at teammate as the Mavericks take on the Los Angeles Lakers in the first half at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers goes to the basket as Theo Pinson #1 of the Dallas Mavericks defends in the first half at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts as the Lakers play the Dallas Mavericks in the second half at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Head coach Jason Kidd of the Dallas Mavericks calls a play as the Maverick play the Los Angeles Lakers in the second half at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts toward the team bench after a basket against the Los Angeles Lakers in the second half at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts as the Lakers play the Dallas Mavericks in the second half at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks attempts to save the ball from going out of bounds as Patrick Beverley #21 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on in the second half at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball as Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks defends in the second half at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Tim Hardaway Jr. #11 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts after scoring against the Los Angeles Lakers in the second half at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Head coach Darvin Ham of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts after talking with referee Scott Foster #48 as the Lakers play the Dallas Mavericks in the second half at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts as the Lakers play the Dallas Mavericks in the second half at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts toward the team bench after a basket against the Los Angeles Lakers in the second half at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) attempts a three-point shot in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Dallas, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Emil T. Lippe)

Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts after scoring against the Los Angeles Lakers in the second half at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Spencer Dinwiddie #26 of the Dallas Mavericks shoots the ball as Austin Reaves #15 and LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers defend in the second half at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks attempts to save the ball from going out of bounds as Patrick Beverley #21 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on in the second half at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks and Patrick Beverley #21 of the Los Angeles Lakers share a laugh in the second half at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James instructs his teammates on the floor as Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic defends him in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Dallas, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Emil T. Lippe)

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James drives past Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock (25) to attempt a layup in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Dallas, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Emil T. Lippe)

Los Angeles Lakers guard Dennis Schroder (17) attempts a layup while Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock (25) and Dallas Mavericks forward Tim Hardaway Jr. (11) defend him in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Dallas, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Emil T. Lippe)

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) attempts to pass the ball in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Dallas, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Emil T. Lippe)

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) prepares to pass the ball as Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (0) and Los Angeles Lakers guard Dennis Schroder (17) defend him in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Dallas, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Emil T. Lippe)

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DALLAS — There’s no other pose that would make sense for Dirk Nowitzki.

When Dallas unveiled the massive white bronze statue in the plaza outside American Airlines Center, it represented an iconic move for the 7-foot German: at a slant, ball cocked almost behind his head, ready to launch one of his thousand one-legged fadeaway jumpers that many people now simply call “Dirks”.

One of those people is LeBron James, a longtime foe whose Miami Heat team fell to Nowitzki’s Mavericks in the 2011 Finals. James guessed that one of the most unstoppable shots in NBA history would be the freeze frame for Nowitzki’s bronze tribute.

“That boy was cold, man. Dirk was cold,” James said. “You couldn’t put a small on him because he was too big, you really couldn’t put a slow big on him because he was too quick with his first step early on. And you could never block his shot because he shot it behind his head, kind of like Larry Bird-esque.”

Christmas was another celebratory day in Dallas for Nowitzki, now 44, who spent the morning with a number of Mavericks legends – including former teammate and current coach Jason Kidd – who still all pale when compared to his legacy: a 14-time All-Star, 2007 MVP, 2011 champion and the sixth-leading scorer in NBA history.

Inscribed in statue was the phrase “Loyalty never fades away,” which Nowitzki noted coincidentally has 21 letters for the 21 years of his NBA career, all with the Mavericks.

“I just kind of sat down, like, ‘What do people associate you with in Dallas?’” Nowitzki said. “It was these two things. It was the fadeaway and the loyalty. We kind of combined that.”

Nowitzki got tributes from the franchise, obviously, but also from his former opponents on the Lakers.

Westbrook remembered Nowitzki as a “hell of a player,” ruefully noting that he once shot 24 free throws in a playoff game against Westbrook’s Thunder. Darvin Ham faced the German as a player and a coach, and pointed to his dome joking that Nowitzki left a few fingerprints as battle scars.

“I think he ushered in just a new wave of big guys who could function on the perimeter,” Ham said. “Definitely his post-ups at the nail, free throw line – impossible to guard. And that jump shot is going up to the sky, creating all type of rain. It’s great, I’m happy for him man. It’s well-deserved.”

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While Nowitzki is expected to be ushered in to the Hall of Fame with an especially decorated class in 2023, he acknowledged that the legacy of being made a statue was especially meaningful – implying a physical legacy that could last for hundreds of years: “Hopefully Nowitzkis down the line, wherever they may be in the world, can come here and see this thing, that’s the most emotional part.”

From a Lakers’ angle, it draws a curious question to mind: The next statue in front of Crypto.com Arena is likely to be Kobe Bryant. What pose would he be in? Sadly, the Lakers won’t have Bryant’s input to draw upon.

Kidd and Westbrook suggested the famous pose of Bryant biting the front of this jersey, while Ham said holding a follow-through on a game-winning shot might be most appropriate.

“There’s so many legendary moments, I’m not sure which great moment they’ll pick from,” Westbrook said. “But just for me watching what he’s done over the years, it’ll be a great day for L.A. and for his family. Looking forward to that.”

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