Dirk Nowitzki vividly remembers watching Hakeem Olajuwon from his home in Germany as a teenager in the 1990s.
That’s one of the reasons his latest move up the NBA scoring list was special for the 7-foot Dallas star. Another would be the milestone coming at home when the Mavericks rallied from 24 points down to win.
Nowitzki had 23 points to surpass Olajuwon as the highest-scoring player born outside the U.S., and the Mavericks came from way behind on Tuesday night to beat Sacramento 106-98 for their 21st straight regular-season win at home against the Kings.
"You know to pass `The Dream’ is unbelievable," said the 36-year-old Nowitzki, in his 17th season with the Mavericks. "He was unguardable on the block. His footwork, his skill level, his hands, his touch was second to none, so I’m pretty proud."
Nowitzki hit a jumper from just inside the 3-point line early in the fourth quarter to pass Olajuwon at No. 9, and he finished the night at 26,953 career points. That’s seven more than the 7-footer from Nigeria, who starred for 17 years in Houston before retiring in 2002 after one season in Toronto.
Before Nowitzki’s milestone, Monta Ellis scored 10 of 16 points in the third quarter, including a fadeaway 3-pointer at the buzzer after the Mavericks had taken their first lead.
Rudy Gay scored 26 and Ramon Sessions had 18 for the Kings, who were outscored 58-28 from the middle of the second quarter to the end of the third.
"What’s the word I’m looking for?" asked DeMarcus Cousins, who had 16 points, 11 rebounds and five assists but combined with Gay for 12 of Sacramento’s 20 turnovers, 15 in the second half. "Trying to say this without getting in trouble. They had a momentum swing."
Chandler Parsons, who was 2 of 20 from the field the previous two games, scored eight points in a little more than a minute to get the Mavericks within five in the third, and Ellis put them in front for the first time on a layup for a 69-67 lead.
Parsons finished with 19 points and was 5 of 11 from 3-point range after missing all 11 from beyond the arc in the previous three games. Tyson Chandler had his third straight double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.