DALLAS — Dirk Nowitzki made official last night what most of us have probably known for a long time. We have seen the last of 41 in a Mavericks uniform. No one will ever wear that number again.

It does seem, in many ways, like only yesterday, when a 19-year-old kid from Germany showed up in Dallas, and none of us really knew what we were about to see.

Twenty-one years he played for the Mavericks – the only uniform he ever wore, the best player they've ever had, and one of the very best to ever play the game.

His 31,500-plus points in 1,522 games puts him sixth on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Another 3,663 points in 145 playoff games, 14 times an all-star, an MVP in '07, an NBA title in 2011.

But those are just numbers, and numbers don't begin to describe the greatness of the man, what he has meant to the Mavericks, the City of Dallas and the NBA.

The only hint of a Dirk Nowitzki scandal in 21 years...he used to date a trouble woman, and who among us has not been guilty of that?

If we ever have a Mount Rushmore of Dallas sports, Dirk Nowitzki will be one of the four on the biggest hill we can find.

But if we ever build a monument to the athletes who graced us with their talent, their presence, their grace, their commitment to the community and a reminder to us all who love the games, why we do...if we ever build that monument, if it wasn't for that darn Roger Staubach, we'd put Nowitzki in first.

It's hard for the great athlete to quit. It's hard to watch 'em go. Because the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw was right when he said, 'Men do not quit playing because they grow old, they grow old because they quit playing."

We've enjoyed watching Dirk Nowitzki grow for 21 years now. We were the lucky ones, because we can tell our kids and grandkids we saw Dirk Nowitzki play, and we knew the great man he was.

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