Dirk Nowitzki has long drawn comparisons to Larry Bird for the similarities in their game and appearance. This week, Bird admitted that such comparisons were “an honor.”
Which, while humble and classy, is absolutely backwards.
Until Nowitzki accomplishes anything close to what Bird accomplished – and he can start by winning a championship – the comparisons should only go one way: Nowitzki to Bird.
Dirk Nowitzki is a tremendous player. He is one of the best of his generation, a sure-fire Hall of Famer, and one of the best scorers in the league currently. But he is nowhere near replicating Larry Bird’s resume, no matter what Bird says.
Bird won three titles, almost single-handedly turned the fortunes of the Boston Celtics around, and is one of the 50 greatest players of all time. He was a member of the original Dream Team, and is widely considered one of the best forwards in league history.
Nowitzki may well end up somewhere in that neighborhood. He has certainly turned in a remarkable postseason run this spring, putting the Mavericks on his back and pushing them into the NBA Finals. A title would go a long way toward shedding his reputation as a player who never got it done in the clutch.
But it still doesn’t put him in Larry Bird’s class. At least not yet.
The ever-classy Bird can say all the right things about being honored. But the truth of the matter is Nowitzki is the one that should be touched by being held in the same esteem as Bird.