Fri May 27 12:52pm EDT
A better-kept secret, however, is Dirk Nowitzki also considered playing college basketball.
The Dallas Mavericks star delved into his past before his second NBA Finals appearance, telling Dan Patrick on Friday that more than 30 U.S. colleges offered him scholarships. The three Nowitzki liked enough to visit before ultimately deciding to go straight to the NBA were Kentucky, Cal and Stanford.
"I had some good college offers," he said. "I'm sure that would have been great too going to college for one or two years and take that experience in. That would have been wonderful."
It's tantalizing to consider how different the 1998-99 college basketball season might have been had Nowitzki spent the year at any of the three schools he visited.
A Kentucky team led by seniors Scott Padgett and Wayne Turner won 28 games and fought valiantly to defend its national championship but fell in the Elite Eight against Michigan State. Stanford began the season ranked in the top three in the nation and captured the Pac-10 title, but fell at the hands of Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA tournament. And Cal won the NIT title behind the emergence of future Pac-10 Player of the Year Sean Lampley.
One of the reasons Nowitzki strongly considered high school and college in the United States was because German countryman Detlef Schrempf made the NBA after four years at Washington. Nowitzki ultimately decided to remain in Germany and then go straight to the NBA because he feared a U.S. high school or college coach would attempt to transform him into a traditional back-to-the-basket big man.
"I figured once I go to high school they were going to make me a back-to-the-basket type player, and that's really not what I wanted or where I saw my future," Nowitzki said. "I decided against it. Looking back now it was a smart decision, but back then it was pretty hard."