Four years after the end of his impressive career, Dirk Nowitzki is once again on the big stage – and then hopes to say goodbye to the public festivities.

“It’s been really a lot about me in the last few years,” remarked the most successful German basketball player before the biggest honor in his industry: admission to the Hall of Fame, the “Naismith Hall of Fame” named after the inventor of the sport.

“For me it’s the icing on the cake. I’m really looking forward to Springfield. It’s going to be a crazy week with friends and families from all over the world,” said Nowitzki recently in a video session with German journalists. On August 11, the now 45-year-old from Würzburg will receive the traditional jacket and the Hall of Fame ring, and the following day he will be ceremonially admitted to Springfield.

The speech is already in place

The Würzburger has already decided on blue as the color of his suit. The speech is also already certain, at least on paper, when he travels to the east coast of the USA in the coming days. No German before him has walked this path, with him now the Spaniard Pau Gasol and the Frenchman Tony Parker from Europe make it. Both deserving NBA professionals – but they were not able to put a stamp on the league as big as Nowitzki’s.

“To sit next to Michael Jordan is great. But to have the opportunity to sit next to Dirk, who opened the way for us all, is more than an incredible feeling for me,” Greece’s Giannis Antetokounmpo had said when he was only European besides Nowitzki in the list of the 75 best players in the history of the NBA.

Nowitzki, whose iconic backward throw not only served as a template for a giant statue in Dallas, but had changed the entire sport for years before that, left a deep mark on the NBA. He led the Mavericks to the first and still only championship in their history, was the first European to be voted the league’s most valuable player and is number six in the all-time scorer list.

Wagner: “Has broadened horizons”

Current German internationals highlighted Nowitzki’s pioneering role. “It’s a very distant world for us here in Europe, the NBA. He showed us that anything is possible,” said Moritz Wagner. Nowitzki “broadened the horizon for Germans, who sometimes look a little straight.” Dennis Schröder said the 45-year-old represented German basketball at the highest level in the United States.

Because of all those accomplishments, there’s a street in Dallas with his name on it, said statue in front of the American Airlines Center, and in the arena, his jersey with the number 41 under the canopy, which no other Mavericks player will wear ever again. In view of the accumulation of festivities, friends would have asked him: “We should come back and celebrate you?” It was all “a bit much,” he reported – and yet it makes clear the importance of inclusion in the Hall of Fame, which is difficult for German sports fans to grasp.

“It’s a really, really big moment. There’s nothing like that in Germany, but since I moved over, I’ve understood how big it really is,” said Nowitzki. During his career he followed the speeches of Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, absolute icons for every basketball fan. So once more friends, former teammates, competitors and companions will stand up for Nowitzki on Sunday night in Germany. “More than 150 people from my crew are coming. I also see this as the end of all the celebrations and I hope that things will calm down a little afterwards and that there won’t be any big things to do for the time being.”

“Top of the Mountain”

For Dirk Nowitzki, being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame marks the end of a whole chapter in his life. “There is nothing else that can come in a basketball career,” said the 45-year-old from Würzburg at the press conference the day before the ceremony on the east coast of the United States. “The Hall of Fame is the top of the mountain, it ends this phase of my life.”

Frenchman Tony Parker, who, like Nowitzki, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday night in Germany, spoke with the greatest respect about his long-time opponent. “Dirk paved the way. I always say Dirk is the goat for all European players. He has shown that teams can trust European players as franchise players.” Goat is the English abbreviation for Greatest of all times. “I was very honored by that,” said Nowitzki. “When I’ve managed to help and inspire others, that makes me happy.”