For those who celebrate Christmas, I hope yours was merry and that you were able to share it with the people who are important to you.
On Christmas, it is traditional to have a plethora of good NBA games and what better book to post a review than one about one of the great NBA players, Dirk Nowitzki? A book that was published in Germany in 2019 on him is soon to come out in the United States in English and I was fortunate enough to obtain an advance copy. Here is my review of “The Great Nowitzki”
Title/Author: “The Great Nowitzki: Basketball and the Meaning of Life” by Thomas Pletzinger
Rating: 5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
Review: Dirk Nowitzki will go down as one of the greatest players in professional basketball history. He played 21 seasons in the NBA, all with the Dallas Mavericks with the highlight of his career coming when he led his Mavericks to the NBA championship and was named the MVP of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. His story of his development as a player in Germany, and his career with Dallas is captured in this excellent book by Thomas Pletzinger.
Originally published in German in 2019, the English version is one that American fans should be sure to pick up whether or not they were Novitizki or Mavericks fans. Pletzinger spent six years working on this project while spending many days during that time frame talking to Dirk, to his longtime personal coach in both Germany and Dallas, Holger Gerschwinder and key people in Dirk’s professional life in Dallas. However, that statement doesn’t do justice to the connections Pletzinger made to give the reader a complete picture of not only Dirk the basketball player but Dirk the person. THis makes the book a very different read than the typical sports biography or memoir in that it delves into other areas of the subject’s life because the author was part of it.
Beyond the season and game recap, Pletzinger brings the reader inside other areas of Nowitzki’s life, starting with his relationship with Gerschwinder. The conversations between them that are shared in the book are very interesting since they are more than just the drills and unusual training methods used by Gerschwinder. There are paragraphs how music, specifically jazz music, gets tied in with Dirk’s life and this is made even better with quotes from Ernest Butler. There are interviews and information from Dirk’s family in both Germany and America, teammates on both teams and so many others.
One of those “others” is a poignant moment that I felt set the tone for not only the quality of the book but captures how nearly everyone who has met Nowitzki has felt about him. Before Nowitizki, Drazen Petrovic was considered to be the best European player to play in the NBA before he tragically died at 28. In the book, Dirk is called to meet a woman after the 2005 European tournament in which he led Germany to the title and has already made his mark in the NBA. Dirk opens his hotel room door and meets Petrovic’s mother who tells him that he reminds her of her son and plays the game the right way. It remains one of the most memorable moments of Nowitzki’s life.
That is just one small example of the many great moments and passages in this book that pays a proper tribute to one of the truly great players in basketball history.
I wish to thank W.W. Norton for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.