As Germany returned to work following a public holiday on Monday, the nation expressed their massive pride in Dirk Nowitzki winning the NBA championship with his Dallas Mavericks. Plans are already on-going in a big welcome party in his native Würzburg and by the German Basketball Federation DBB, the latter of which is hoping the Nowitzki triumph will result in a basketball boom in Germany. In addition, speculation is already rampant if he will play at the 2011 EuroBasket in Lithuania.
The city of Würzburg is anxiously awaiting Nowitzki’s return to Germany, which is still uncertain when that will be according to a city spokesman in the Würzburg Main Post daily.
“We are definitely planning for a welcome,” said the spokesman, who added that the city is in contact with Nowitzki’s sister Silke, also his manager.
“But we still have time until he’s back here.”
Nowitzki, who will celebrate with a parade in downtown Dallas on Thursday, returns to Germany to visit his family in Würzburg every summer, most of time before he prepares to play for the German national team.
The German Basketball Federation DBB is also considering what kind of welcome they will give to the Mavericks superstar.
The people of his hometown also used the forum of the local Main-Post newspaper to discuss ways to commemorate their local son – ranging from a monument to renaming a bridge in the city. One reader said: “With his millions he can probably have a monument built at the train station fountain. Maybe even the city will rename a bridge for Nowitzki.” Others agreed that a monument to Dirk would be a good idea.
The German media continued their praise of Nowitzki and the mass daily Bild remained humorous in their headlines, saying: “When Germany woke up, America was celebrating a new basketball king”.
They also ran a picture of Nowitzki in the form of the Statute of Liberty.
The Berlin Tagesspiegel said Nowitzki has finally arrived – at the lofty heights of sports which very few accomplish. “He has risen among Germany’s sports legends. Names like Michael Schumacher, Boris Becker and Franz Beckenbauer hang in the air.
A number of television stations also added Nowitzki into the news coverage – bringing him somewhat to the status of a football/soccer star.
“I think you can really say that he is at the moment the best basketball player in the world. And that is unbelievable that a German accomplished that,” German basketball national team coach Dirk Bauermann said in an interview with Sport1.
The praise of Nowitzki also began coming in from the football/soccer circles in Germany as German Football Federation Theo Zwanziger said: “For me he is one of the greatest German athletes of all time.”
The heads of German basketball are hoping that Nowitzki’s biggest moment can give a push to the game in Germany. Those in power had hoped for a basketball boom following their 1993 European championship title but the efforts failed to take hold.
But this time it could be different, according to DBB President Ingo Weiss: “Dirk can bring the fever that he had in America to Germany and spark it a bit here. Now we have the chance to talk about basketball in public.”
“As a shining figure of course he can do that. Every youngster will look up to a star like Nowitzki and say I would like to be like him one day,” Weiss told the German Press Agency, dpa.
“With momentum of this NBA title from Dirk, naturally it’s important for children and youngsters to come (to the game). But that is not really the problem but rather much more the lack of open gyms and lack of coaches,” Bauermann told the German television channel ZDF’s morning magazine show.
“If something changes now because of this euphoria and the great appreciation of his performance, then it would be good.”
The next issue is if Nowitzki will play for Germany at the 2011 EuroBasket in Lithuania.
“After this triumph I am very confident that he will be carried by the euphoria and say: ‘I am there’,” Bauermann told the German sports channel Sport1.
And Bauermann is also confident that Los Angeles Clippers center Chris Kaman will also play for Germany is Nowitzki does. Kaman congratulated Nowitzki on his twitter account and then said: “Now we have to figure out if we are playing in Lithuania this summer?”
Nowitzki’s mentor Holger Geschwindner was a bit more skeptical, telling the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “He would like to be there, but after the finger injury and the stresses and strain we have to wait and see.”