NBA / Apr 11, 2014 / 1:01 am

Rick Carlisle Says Dirk Nowitzki Is One Of The 12 Best Of All Time

Rick Carlisle, Dirk Nowitzki

Rick Carlisle, Dirk Nowitzki (Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

Earlier this week, Dallas legend Dirk Nowitzki dropped in yet another mid-range jumper and passed Oscar Robertson for 10th place on the all-time scoring list. In an interview with ESPN radio on the Thursday before the Spurs played in Dallas, Dirk’s coach, Rick Carlisle, made the case that Nowitzki — now in his 16th season — was one of the 12 best players of all time.

There’s a methodology to Carlisle’s utterance, not that Dirk doesn’t have the bonafides. But to crack the top 12 is to shake hands with the greatest of the greatest in the game’s history. It’s not NBA Mount Rushmore, but it’s a still a spot on the all-time team.

Via Mark Stein (an avid Dirk fan) at ESPN Dallas:

“I think there’s a certain criteria where you can say pretty much for certain that he’s one of the top 12 all time,” Carlisle said in an interview that will air Thursday night on the “NBA on ESPN Radio” pregame show.

“And that is, there’s only been 12 guys that have been 10-time All-Stars, [NBA] Finals MVP and league MVP. So I think that firmly puts him in the top 12. And then getting into the top 10 in all-time scoring validates that even more.”

Besides Dirk, the other players on that list include Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Micheal Jordan, Moses Malone, Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon.

Conspicuously absent from Carlisle’s list is the man Dirk passed, the “Big O” Oscar Robertson and the all-time winningest player in NBA history, Bill Russell. The NBA didn’t start awarding the NBA Finals MVP until the year Russell retired. That also happened to be the only time in the history the award was given to a player on the losing team when Jerry West won the 1969 Finals MVP even though Russell’s Celtics defeated the Lakers in LA during a crazy Game 7. West, the silhouette for the NBA’s freakin’ Logo, should also be included in the all-time best discussion.

Dirk is a first ballot hall of famer and deserves to be mentioned as one of the best players ever and certainly the greatest European import of all time. But one of the 12 best of in the entire history of the NBA? We’re not so sure.

Is Dirk one of the 12 best players ever?

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  • SweetdickWilly

    I’d say top 20 at least. He’s lucky Arvydas Sabonis didn’t come over in his prime or this piece would be about him. Dropping Oscar Robertson is questionable as hell. His numbers are deflated since stats weren’t kept in their current format in his day due to the rules.

  • spencer

    Big O is top 12, and I totally agree that Arvydas would have been the best import ever if he came over in the late 80s. Dirk is top 20 ever. You’re 3-for-3 in my mind.

  • michael mitchell

    Lucky? you call his career lucky? lol Arvydas Sabonis coming would not have taken a lick of talent from Dirk. Also, passing Big O is a big thing, you might as well say anyone that cracks the top 11 in the history of the league for scoring accomplished nothing because Oscar’s numbers are deflated. That makes no sense at all. How many players have there been in this league? To be in the top 10 ever for any stat on the plus side is a major deal.

  • SweetdickWilly

    As far as Oscar and lot of old school players goes, it’s the truth. Stats weren’t recorded like they are now. For instance, three pointers weren’t recorded. Basketball historians and players of that era that’re still alive say that he did routinely shoot what would be considered three pointers today and triple doubles, Oscar’s calling card, weren’t even named or fully recorded either. He’s certainly higher than what he’s credited for. Stats started getting kept as they are now late in his career and that’d raise his college stats too. Even Wilt Chamberlain got hit with stats getting omitted since blocks weren’t recorded. Like I said, Dirk is in the NBA’s top 20 but he wasn’t better than a prime Aryvdas. If came over during his prime, the convo would’ve been about him being the best Euro NBA player. Dirk deserves the press for his career but those factors, especially stats and rule differences, you can’t argue against.