The Great Nowitzki

Basketball and the Meaning of Life

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Pub Date 15 Mar 2022 | Archive Date 28 Feb 2022

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A journey into the mindset of a historic basketball superstar, and the importance of his landmark career.

The seven-foot Dirk Nowitzki is one of the great players in basketball history. With a devastating fadeaway and unexpected agility, the Dallas Mavericks superstar helped to pioneer the modern three-shooting game and became a global ambassador for the sport. Award-winning novelist and sportswriter Thomas Pletzinger traveled with Nowitzki for more than seven years, seeking the secret of his success and longevity. In novelistic detail, Pletzinger tells the dramatic story of how a lanky kid from the German suburbs became a top-five all-time scorer and NBA champion. He profiles the revolutionary training methods developed by Holger Geschwindner, Dirk’s enigmatic mentor and coach, whose philosophical insights on performance, creativity, and freedom shaped Dirk’s game.

A masterpiece of sports journalism and a work of personal obsession—akin to John McPhee’s A Sense of Where You Are and David Halberstam’s The Breaks of the GameThe Great Nowitzki brims with a fan’s passion and offers an intimate portrait of an iconic performer.

About the Author: 

Thomas Pletzinger is an award-winning German novelist, sportswriter, and basketball fanatic. He has won fellowships and teaching positions at the University of Iowa, New York University, and Grinnell College.

(Translated by Shane Anderson)

A journey into the mindset of a historic basketball superstar, and the importance of his landmark career.

The seven-foot Dirk Nowitzki is one of the great players in basketball history. With a...

Advance Praise

"All the hours in the gym, all the defeats and victories, all the stories and memories - it takes an author like Thomas Pletzinger to find the right words for my world and my game. I couldn't have wished for a better one." - Dirk Nowitzki

"All the hours in the gym, all the defeats and victories, all the stories and memories - it takes an author like Thomas Pletzinger to find the right words for my world and my game. I couldn't have...

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ISBN 9781324003052
PRICE US$30.00 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

This interesting read isn't your typical basketball book detailing game by game or season by season. The German author tells the story of how Dirk Nowitzki became the most well known German basketball player and the story of how he rose to the top level of the NBA. It details the large role Nowitzki's mentor Holger Geschwindner played throughout his life and how Nowitzki has stayed down to earth. Overall, this was a very interesting glimpse into Dirk Nowitzki as both a person and international basketball player, and the people around him who helped him become who he is.

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Dirk Nowitzki will go down as one of the greatest players in professional basketball history. He played 21 seasons in the NBA, all with the Dallas Mavericks with the highlight of his career coming when he led his Mavericks to the NBA championship and was named the MVP of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. His story of his development as a player in Germany, and his career with Dallas is captured in this excellent book by Thomas Pletzinger.
Originally published in German in 2019, the English version is one that American fans should be sure to pick up whether or not they were Novitizki or Mavericks fans. Pletzinger spent six years working on this project while spending many days during that time frame talking to Dirk, to his longtime personal coach in both Germany and Dallas, Holger Gerschwinder and key people in Dirk’s professional life in Dallas. However, that statement doesn’t do justice to the connections Pletzinger made to give the reader a complete picture of not only Dirk the basketball player but Dirk the person. THis makes the book a very different read than the typical sports biography or memoir in that it delves into other areas of the subject’s life because the author was part of it.
Beyond the season and game recap, Pletzinger brings the reader inside other areas of Nowitzki’s life, starting with his relationship with Gerschwinder. The conversations between them that are shared in the book are very interesting since they are more than just the drills and unusual training methods used by Gerschwinder. There are paragraphs how music, specifically jazz music, gets tied in with Dirk’s life and this is made even better with quotes from Ernest Butler. There are interviews and information from Dirk’s family in both Germany and America, teammates on both teams and so many others.
One of those “others” is a poignant moment that I felt set the tone for not only the quality of the book but captures how nearly everyone who has met Nowitzki has felt about him. Before Nowitizki, Drazen Petrovic was considered to be the best European player to play in the NBA before he tragically died at 28. In the book, Dirk is called to meet a woman after the 2005 European tournament in which he led Germany to the title and has already made his mark in the NBA. Dirk opens his hotel room door and meets Petrovic’s mother who tells him that he reminds her of her son and plays the game the right way. It remains one of the most memorable moments of Nowitzki’s life.
That is just one small example of the many great moments and passages in this book that pays a proper tribute to one of the truly great players in basketball history.
I wish to thank W.W. Norton for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Great Nowitzki is the biographical story of Dirk Nowitzki and his basketball career. Written by a reporter that travelled with Nowitzki for seven years, the book covers his life in great detail with an intense focus on what made him so successful. The book covers not only his career in the NBA, but also his earlier years and some of his personal life.

I had the privilege of reading The Great Nowitzki right around the same time that the Mavericks retired his jersey number, so my interested in the book was even more sparked than when I first wished for it. One thing that sets this book apart from recently read biographies is the personal level of coverage that the author took, travelling with and covering Nowitzki for seven year. It is very clear throughout the book how much the reporter cared about covering this story properly. Nowitzki is a fascinating player, and I definitely learned a lot more about his life and career by reading this book. He comes across as very humble and quiet, yet has had a historic career. It was great to read about. I would recommend The Great Nowitzki to any basketball fan.

Thanks to Netgalley and W. W. Norton & Company for this ARC; this is my honest and voluntary review.

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The Great Nowitzki goes WAY in-depth on all facets of Dirk Nowitzki's life. It's definitely more detailed than most sports bios due to the author's level of access. I guess your mileage may vary with this book depending on how interested you are in Nowitzki's life and unique training regimen. I think the man you meet in this book is a great change of pace from the normal athlete. I like quiet strength, which Dirk seems to possess.

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