Dirk Nowitzki’s NBA Career Apparently Included Some Underrated Trash Talk

When you think of trash-talking NBA players, a few names probably spring to mind. Michael Jordan has to sit somewhere near the top of the list. Larry Bird and Gary Payton also knew how to use verbal warfare to get inside of their opponents’ heads. Dirk Nowitzki, however, probably wouldn’t make the cut. By and large, the German seemed like a pretty low-key guy. He wanted to win and possessed some incredible talent, but he wasn’t going to break anyone down with his words.

That doesn’t mean Dirk couldn’t unleash a few zingers, though. In fact, he could needle his own teammates with the best of them.

Don’t believe it? Let’s take a trip back to both Big D and the year 2015.

Zach Lowe revealed some examples of Dirk Nowitzki trash talk in an ESPN story

Dirk Nowitzki dribbles the ball during the 2011 NBA Finals.
Dirk Nowitzki was a good guy, but he could still talk trash. | Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

When Zach Lowe penned a story about the 2015-16 Dallas Mavericks, there were plenty of in-depth insights. A few embedded video clips, for example, showed how the departure of Tyson Chandler shifted the way Nowitzki played. There were also insights into Rick Carlisle’s coaching strategy and some perspective from Zaza Pachulia, who was new to the club.

Within the story, though, we got a glimpse at how Dirk acted around his teammates. The big German, it seems, was more than ready to needle the guys around him.

“Nowitzki has long set a self-deprecating tone that shows every newcomer no one is bigger than the team,” Lowe recounted in his ESPN piece. “He is merciless in mocking everyone and happy when people toss insults back. ‘You should learn Chinese because you’ll be in China soon,’ is one of his favorite ways of needling someone after a bad game.”

And while the forward wasn’t singled out for teasing an injured Chandler Parsons, it’s logical to imagine him joining in with the rest of the squad.

“The Mavs even ridicule the wounded,” the write-up continued. “After wins in which, say, Parsons sits out, the team will chant, ‘Parsons out, Mavs roll!’ They do it for everyone as a gentle reminder: ‘We can survive without you.'”

That trash-talk still fits within the larger picture of Nowitzki as a good guy to have in your corner

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If you were to take either of those moments in isolation, you might think that playing with Dirk Nowitzki would be a less-than-ideal environment. When you place them as part of the larger narrative, though, everything comes together.

As I mentioned above, the general perception is that the German star was a good guy. That’s supported by testimony from his teammates.

“He’s a prankster, likes to play a lot of jokes,” Jason Kidd told Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Abrams for a collection of stories from Dirk’s teammates. “He thinks he’s a rapper. He’s a lot of fun. He’s one of my favorite teammates.”

Zaza Pachulia, who was featured in Lowe’s original post, also shared his take. While Nowitzki could tease his teammates, the Mavs’ main man could also poke fun at himself.

“All day, every day, he’d joke,” the Georgian center explained. “Especially the older he got, his joking skills got better because obviously he can’t run and he can’t jump anymore on the court. That’s why he started talking more. You know, a lot of times, he’s complaining about everything. Because his athletic ability is not there now, his complaining ability kicked in.

“Last year, there was a moment where after the whistle, he tried to dunk the ball. He hung on the rim. It was so funny. Nobody asked him to jump and try to dunk. [The] official only blew the whistle, so all he had to do was toss the ball back to the official. Suddenly, in the middle of the game, he decides to jump high and dunk the ball. [He missed.] Obviously, it was caught on the cameras. He always has an answer, a response to it. Like, ‘Yo, that rim was 12 feet high.’ He tried to make himself look good.”

At the risk of stating the obvious, there are two different kinds of trash talk. Some, like Gary Payton’s, is designed to get inside your head and throw you off your game. Other chirps, however, are more positive. They keep you on your toes but still foster a collective mentality. There are standards that have to be met, but everyone is working toward them together.

Dirk Nowitzki was firmly in the latter camp.