Celebrate Dirk Nowitzki passing Shaq with some of his biggest games ever
11/23/1999: Nowitzki posts his first 30-point game
Look at how young Dirk was in this game! He doesn't even look like himself. Where do the years go? As a 21-year-old second-year player, Nowitzki poured in 30 points for the first time in his career in a game against the Houston Rockets. Houston started Steve Francis, Charles Barkley and Hakeem Olajuwon in that contest, for a little of perspective on how long ago this was. Nowitzki would go on to surpass the 30-point plateau another 238 times in the regular season during his career (via Basketball-Reference).
Sporting News via Getty ImagesThe Sporting News
5/12/2001: A different kind of flu game
It wasn't enough that the San Antonio Spurs held a 3-0 lead on the Dallas Mavericks in the second round of the Western Conference finals. The Spurs also beat up Nowitzki, who lost a tooth in a game where he was already battling the flu. Like Michael Jordan before him, though, Dirk came up big, leading the Mavs to their only win of the series with 30 points and 15 rebounds.
Getty ImagesRonald Martinez
12/2/2004: Franchise records are made to be broken
Nowitzki has always been an efficient player. So the first time that he scored 50 points in a game, he also set the Mavericks team record for scoring, tallying 53 points in an overtime win over the Houston Rockets. The combined powers of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming weren't enough to stop Nowitzki, who added four blocks and three steals along with 16 rebounds in a titanic performance.
NBAE/Getty ImagesLayne Murdoch
5/22/2006: Knocking off a Texas-sized big brother
The Mavericks were always playing from a disadvantage against their in-state rival Spurs, given all the talent in San Antonio. At the peak of Nowitzki's powers, however, he was able to topple the defending champions. It took an awful foul by Manu Ginobili to give Dirk an and-one in the clutch, a block by Nowitzki at the end of regulation that's for some reason been forgotten, plus sweating it out in overtime, but Dallas won the Western Conference semifinals over San Antonio on the way to the first Finals appearance of Nowitzki's career.
NBAE/Getty ImagesGarrett Ellwood
6/1/2006: How do you stop Seven Seconds Or Less? 50 points
Amar'e Stoudemire was out with an injury, which certainly didn't help the Suns' cause. Neither did a 50-point outburst from Nowitzki, as the Mavs crushed Phoenix 117-101 to take a 3-2 series lead in the Western Conference finals. It was the first -- and only -- 50-point game of Nowitzki's career in the playoffs. Going 5 for 6 on 3s and 17 for 18 on free throws will do that.
NBAE/Getty ImagesTim Heitman
3/8/2008: No doubt about it -- the greatest Maverick ever
Long before he would finally bring an NBA title to Dallas, Nowitzki had solidified his status as the most important in franchise history. Against the New Jersey Nets, he scored 34 points to pass Rolando Blackman's 16,644 points for most in a career by a Mavericks player. In just a couple games, he'll have surpassed that mark by over 12,000 points. What a career it's been -- and continues to be.
NBAE/Getty ImagesGlenn James
11/3/2009: The fourth quarter belongs to Dirk
It's never fun when you go to an NBA game and star players are on the bench. The flip side, though, is you never know when you might experience the greatest thing you've ever seen. On a random November night against the Jazz, Nowitzki erupted in the fourth for 29 points. That was just two points shy of the record at the time for points in a quarter, a mark held by Wilt Chamberlain and since surpassed by Klay Thompson.
Getty ImagesRonald Martinez
5/17/2011: Dirk earns it from the free-throw line
Nowitzki wasn't perfect against the Oklahoma City Thunder, at least not entirely. From the charity stripe, though, he couldn't miss. 24-of-24 free-throw shooting set a record for most made freebies without a miss in a game. Thanks to all the time he spent at the line, he attempted just 15 shots on the way to 48 points. In our estimation, this game is even more impressive than Nowitzki's aforementioned playoff-high 50-point performance. Perfection is generally tough to beat.
NBAE/Getty ImagesDanny Bollinger
6/2/2011: The tipping point for that elusive title
An injured left hand wasn't going to deny Nowitzki the chance to even the 2011 Finals against the Miami Heat at one game apiece. Nowitzki scored the game-winning layup with said hand after Dallas bled the clock to get Dirk a final look, and the timeout-less Heat could only watch as a desperation Dwyane Wade 3 missed the mark. The Heat won Game 3 before Dallas rebounded to take the series. If Nowitzki misses that shot, we might still be talking about his inclusion on the list of all-time players never to win a ring.
NBAE/Getty ImagesNathaniel S. Butler
4/14/2013: Everyone loves big, round numbers
This image captures two very important things. First, Nowitzki became the 17th player in NBA history to score 25,000 regular-season points. Second, the 2-month-old beard Nowitzki was sporting came off at the end of the night. It was a rally beard that Dirk was growing until the Mavs reached .500 again, which they did with a win on his historic night.
NBAE/Getty ImagesLayne Murdoch Jr.
11/11/2014: Setting the bar as a global icon
A little more than a year ago, Nowitzki passed Hakeem Olajuwon for No. 9 on the all-time scoring list. In so doing, Germany's finest set the record for most points by a foreign-born player. As Dirk continues to climb up the leaderboard, it's hard to envision who will one day surpass his mark in that category. The pressure's on, Andrew Wiggins.
NBAE/Getty ImagesDanny Bollinger
12/22/2015: No. 41 becomes No. 6
Move over, Big Aristotle. The Big German just forced his way past you on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Congratulations to Dirk Nowitzki on all of his accomplishments, big performances and Hall-of-Fame moments. We can't wait to see what comes next.