Nets coach Kenny Atkinson recalls playing against Dirk Nowitzki in Germany
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson talks about playing against Dirk Nowitzki when he was still a teenager and how he saw his potential since back then.
It was a little more than 20 years ago when Kenny Atkinson opposed Dirk Nowitzki on the court in Germany. Atkinson played for Braunshweig and faced a teen-aged Nowitzki’s Wurzburg team. It was then where Atkinson saw the kind of talent that Nowitzki possessed.
“He was playing in the first division,” said Atkinson. “And he was playing for a super uptempo team and a bunch of really good young players. I think that’s kind of where he flourished. I always tell the story about when we played Wuzburg when I was in Braunshweig and he dropped 30 (points) on us. He was 18 or 19.”
Atkinson also remembers going to the gym the next morning after that game to lift weights at about 8 a.m. and Nowitzki was already there with his longtime personal coach Holger Geschwindner. It was evident to Atkinson that Nowitzki was having a serious workout.
“He’s (Nowitzki) just drenched,” Atkinson recalls. “Right then you’re like ‘this guy’s special.’ You knew it then, and fantastic job on identifying him and drafting him. His history, it’s just a great, great story.”
Nowitzki was presented with a key to the city by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings during halftime of the Nets’ 119-113 loss against the Mavericks. He is still waiting to get back on the court as he recovers from left ankle surgery he had about seven months ago.
Upon doing so, Nowitzki will become the first player in NBA history to play 21 seasons with the same franchise. The 13-time All-Star has led the Mavericks to 15 playoff appearances, including their first Finals appearance in 2006. In 2011, Nowitzki carried the franchise to it’s only NBA championship and won the Finals MVP award that same year.