How Charles Barkley Knew a Young Dirk Nowitzki Was Primed for Greatness

Basketball fans may not always trust Charles Barkley’s predictions, but Dirk Nowitzki will happily vouch for the eccentric big man-turned-analyst.

Barkley, a legendary player and broadcaster, never played for the Dallas Mavericks — and therefore, he never played with Nowitzki, the greatest player in franchise history.

Barkley clearly had his crystal ball on him when he, Scottie Pippen, and others first met Nowitzki in the 1990s. That day, Barkley quickly realized that Nowitzki would become an elite NBA player.

Charles Barkley is a legendary NBA figure

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Don’t let Charles Barkley’s antics on Inside the NBA fool younger fans into thinking Barkley is all talk. 

For nearly two full decades, Barkley was one of the game’s best players and grew into one of the top big men in NBA history. 

Across 16 seasons, Barkley averaged 22.1 points, 11.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.5 steals, and 0.8 blocks in 1,073 games and 1,012 starts. Barkley shot 54.1% from the field and was ahead of his time as a three-point shooter, drilling 26.6% of his shots from long-range. 

An 11-time All-Star and All-NBA selection, Barkley averaged 23 points and 12.9 rebounds in 123 playoff games. Barkley won the NBA MVP Award following the 1992-93 season, a campaign where he averaged 25.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, and a career-high 5.1 assists for the Phoenix Suns. 

Dirk Nowitzki had a stellar career with the Dallas Mavericks

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One has to wonder what would have happened if the Milwaukee Bucks had held onto Dirk Nowitzki and not traded him in 1998.

After drafting Nowitzki with the ninth overall pick, Milwaukee traded him and power forward Pat Garrity to the Mavericks for big man Robert Traylor.

Dallas didn’t need long to win the trade. Nowitzki averaged 20.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in 1,522 games and 1,460 starts for the Mavericks from 1998-2019.

The 14-time All-Star shot 47.1% from the field and hit 38% of his three-point tries. Nowitzki won the 2006 NBA MVP Award when he averaged 24.6 points and 8.9 rebounds in 81 games.

No stranger to the postseason, Nowitzki averaged 25.3 points, 10 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and one rebound in 145 career playoff games. Nowitzki and the Mavericks defeated LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals.

Charles Barkley knew Dirk Nowitzki was primed for greatness

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Charles Barkley figured out very, very early that Dirk Nowitzki was bound for stardom.

In a 2015 interview on Mike & Mike, Barkley recalled a trip that he and other NBA All-Stars took to Germany during an exhibition tour in the late 1990s.

Playing for DJK Würzburg, a German team, Nowitzki had around 28 points in the first half. Bulls legend Scottie Pippen said he would defend Nowitzki for the second half.

The Dallas News transcribed Barkley’s recollections from that game.

“So we start playing — Dirk finishes with, like, 52, and I said, ‘Dude, who the hell are you?’ He’s, like, ‘I am Dirk Nowitzki.’ I said, ‘Are you going to college or anything?’ He says, ‘No, no. I’m going in the army.’ I was, like, ‘Dude, you’re not going in the army. You’re 7-feet tall.’ I said, ‘There’s nothing you can do in the army at 7-feet tall,’ and I said, ‘Give me some information on you. I want you to go to Auburn.’ He says, ‘Uh, OK.’”

Nowitzki did not attend college and instead remained in Germany until 1998, when he entered the NBA as a 20-year-old.

Barkley’s crystal ball paid off, as Nowitzki became one of the greatest players of his generation. Now, if only Barkley can find similar success when he is making predictions on Inside the NBA

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