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DALLAS That it came from his hero made it sweet.

"For him to even know my name is crazy, to be honest," said Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki.

In a recent ESPN.com article, Michael Jordan singled out Dirk Nowitzki, along with LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Tim Duncan as guys who would have succeeded when Jordan thrived.

And that made it remarkable.

"For him to say that I could have been a good player then means a lot. It's humbling," said Nowitzki. "It's been great. It's been a crazy ride over 15 years. That's great to get respect from the greatest of all time."

So one of (if not the greatest of) all time thinks Dirk Nowitzki's game is timeless. But how quickly is time running out for Dirk to show that in games that really matter?

I sat down with Dirk recently to talk about his thoughts on retiring, now that he has one year left after this one on his contract.

"We'll see how it goes next year. Next year is my last year, but I'll be 36," said Nowitzki. "We'll see. Maybe if it's still fun; is the body still reacting the right way? That's something we're just going to see how it feels in a couple years."

For the 23-29 Mavs to make the playoffs, it'll take a miraculous turnaround. So if the Mavericks can't land a big-time free agent this summer, Dirk's window may be nearly shut.

"One thing you don't want to be in the NBA is mediocre," said Dallas Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin. "You want to be very good or very bad. If you can't be very good, you want to get in the lottery and get the difference-making pick."

And as Gosselin aptly points out, stuck in the middle is not how Nowitzki wants his remarkable career to end.

E-mail jtrahan@wfaa.com

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