Mavs’ Nowitzki makes debut in 21st season vs Suns

PHOENIX (AP) – Dirk Nowitzki at last began his record-breaking 21st season with the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night, coming off the bench in the first quarter against the Phoenix Suns.

No other NBA player has played that many seasons with the same team.

The 40-year-old had been tied at 20 seasons with Kobe Bryant, who retired from the Los Angeles Lakers after the 2015-16 season.

Nowitzki had surgery to remove bone spurs from his left ankle last April, and the timing was to make sure he would be ready at the start of this season. But the 7-foot German had a setback before training camp, with tendon soreness forcing him to continue rehabbing the injury and missing the first 26 games.

He made his first appearance in the lineup this season with 3:27 left in the opening quarter. A minute later, he banked in his first shot.