Dirk Nowitzki, the all-time leading scorer in NBA history, once torched Scottie Pippen in an exhibition game as a 19-year-old. He later said he was disappointed to meet him because he was an “arrogant ass beyond belief” and not someone who would take advice from him.
Dirk Nowitzki Torched Idol Scottie Pippen in an Exhibition as a 19-Year-Old, Later Said He Was Disappointed to Meet Him Because He Was an ‘Arrogant Ass Beyond Belief’
Dirk Nowitzki is probably the best of all the great NBA players that have arrived from Europe throughout the years. Giannis Antetokounmpo or Luka Doncic may hold the title at some point, but if I had to choose, I’d go with Dirk for the time being. Nowitzki, like many other players of his generation, was a fan of the Chicago Bulls as a kid, which makes sense given that he was a teenager during the 1990s, when Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen led the Bulls to six NBA championships. However, unlike other adolescents, Dirk had the opportunity to play against Jordan and Pippen when they came to Nowitzki’s native nation of Germany just before their famous “Last Dance” season.
Then Dirk, who was 19 at the time, lit them up, which had to be an amazing sensation for him since Pippen was his hero. However, you know how they say you should never meet your idols because you would be disappointed? When Nowitzki joined Scottie in the NBA, that’s precisely what occurred, and it led to the future Hall of Famer saying some not-so-nice things about the six-time NBA champion.
19-year-old In 1997, Dirk Nowitzki led a squad that featured Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan, and Charles Barkley to a championship.
Nike used to send a number of its top endorsers abroad for what they called the “Hoop Heroes Tour.” The players would often have a mini-camp, sign autographs, and sell Nike gear.
In 1997, Nike pulled out the major guns for the “Hoop Heroes Tour,” which took place in Berlin, Germany, and included Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Charles Barkley. A handful of exhibition games were usually conducted in addition to the other activities, and then-19-year-old Nowitzki, who had become one of Europe’s biggest young stars, was fortunate enough to be on the court against a bunch of NBA players.
Years later, Barkley reflected on how impressed he was with Nowitzki that night in Berlin, claiming that not even Pippen, one of the greatest defenders in the NBA at the time, could stop him.
“So Dirk is kicking our asses,” says the narrator. At halftime, he’s got around 25. ‘Scottie, you need to step it up a little bit,’ Michael and I say. ‘Man, I’m going to lock him down in the second half,’ he adds. In the second half, I’m going to shut him down.’ Dirk ended up with something like 52.”
Dirk Nowitzki drops 52 points on Scottie Pippen, according to Charles Barkley.
Now, in the video of the game that is available, I don’t see Jordan anywhere. I didn’t notice Michael Jackson in the first exhibition, either. I’m not claiming he wasn’t there; I just didn’t notice him. But we’ll take Barkley’s word for it for now.
After all, this is about Nowitzki and Pippen, and Dirk reportedly had some problems with his hero during his early NBA years.
In his early NBA days, Dirk felt Pippen was a “arrogant ass.”
Dirk Nowitzki, Scottie Pippen, Ronald Martinez/Getty Images, and Michael Loccisano/Getty Images (L-R)
Less than a year after facing Pippen in Germany, Nowitzki was drafted ninth overall in the 1998 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, who subsequently traded him to the Dallas Mavericks in a multi-team transaction that also included Steve Nash.
Due to a lockout, Nowitzki’s rookie season was delayed, but he finally made his NBA debut on February 5, 1999, against the Seattle Supersonics in a Mavs loss. Dirk ended the game with only two points after missing all five of his field goal tries.
Three games later, the Mavericks faced the Houston Rockets, who had acquired Pippen from the Bulls in the summer as Chicago began its rebuilding process after its sixth championship. Because Barkley was also on Houston’s roster at the time, this was Dirk’s first opportunity to face him in a real game. And he discovered how different it was from that night in Berlin.
Scottie may have gone into Michael Jordan’s “personal” mode, but he played more minutes than anybody else in Dallas that night. He didn’t have a very good game, hitting only six of 16 shots from the field and one of four from the line for 16 points, but he did limit Dirk to eight points instead of 52. And to top it off, the Rockets won 105-95.
When Nowitzki initially joined the NBA a few years later, he spoke about how fascinated he was playing against the players he grown up watching. He recalled his first game versus Pippen, whom he referred to as his hero. However, the next thing he called him wasn’t quite so kind.
“Scottie Pippen was, without a doubt, my hero. When I first came over at the age of 20, I believe it was against Scottie Pippen in my third NBA game (it was his fourth). That was a hammering sensation. I couldn’t believe it when you told me you were on the court playing against them. But, for now, I’m in my sixth year. You have to lose respect at some point.
“That was a challenge for me the first year. It seemed insane that I was now playing against all the posters I had strewn around my room. And I was heartbroken because Scottie Pippen was my hero. That’s an unbelievably arrogant jerk.”
Scottie Pippen vs. Dirk Nowitzki
We don’t know what Pippen said to Nowitzki, but it couldn’t have been good for Dirk, who is renowned for being one of the nicest men in NBA history, to say anything like that. However, as his career developed, the hatred must have dissipated.
Before Dirk Nowitzki’s last home game, Pippen paid homage to him.
Despite the fact that Dirk’s first season in the NBA was a challenge, he remained composed. Nowitzki would go on to become one of the best players in league history over the following two decades. He was a 14-time NBA All-Star and a 12-time All-NBA pick, as well as the 2007 NBA MVP. Nowitzki finished his career with 31,560 points in the regular season, good for sixth all-time, and 3,663 points in the playoffs. 582 of them came during the 2011 NBA playoffs, when he led the Mavericks to their first (and currently only) NBA championship and was named NBA Finals MVP.
Following Nowitzki’s last home game in Dallas in April 2019, a number of NBA luminaries paid homage to him, including Barkley, who recounted how Dirk lit him up in Germany once again. Nowitzki only scored 42 points in this edition. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
If there was ever any genuine animosity between Dirk and Scottie, it was long forgotten as Pippen delivered a moving statement about Nowitzki, beginning by expressing his admiration for him. He went on to talk about how Nowitzki was a great player who inspired people all around the globe. And Nowitzki seemed to be ecstatic to be hearing these things at the same time that Pippen was saying them. It may have taken a bit longer than Dirk had hoped, but he had definitely won the respect of his hero.
Basketball Reference provided the statistics.
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