Dirk Nowitzki was born on June 19, 1978, in the small German town of Wurzburg. Although he didn't touch a basketball until he was 13 years old, he certainly had the genes of an NBA superstar, as his mother had been a star player on the German women's Basketball team, while his older sister played on a professional German team. Nowitzki was discovered by Holger Geschwindner, a former member of the German men's Olympic squad, who is now Dirk's personal coach, as well as his agent and mentor. At 16 years old, Dirk joined a professional team called the Wurzburg X-Rays, and by the end of his career in the German league he led all teams in scoring and was ranked 3rd in rebounding. While Dirk continued to play professional basketball, he also served a mandatory stint in the German army from September 1997 until June 1998.
Nowitzki first came to international attention at the Nike Hoop Summit in March of 1998, when he led the international junior squad (with an impressive 33 points and 14 rebounds) in an upset over the American junior squad. The following June, Nowitzki decided to forgo college and enter into the NBA draft. In the 1998 NBA Draft, Nowitzki was selected 9th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks, who traded his draft rights (along with those of Pat Garrity), to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for the rights to Robert "Tractor" Traylor. Mavericks Coach Don Nelson was elated by the acquisition and declared that Dirk would be the '98-'99 NBA Rookie of the Year.
Of course, things didn't work out that way. After arriving in Dallas, Dirk's troubles adjusting to a new country and a more physical style of play were compounded by the NBA lockout which resulted in the season being compressed into 50 games. Nowitzki averaged only 8.2 ppg that year, and struggled to the point that he was even booed by the Dallas fans. Needless to say, ROTY honors went to Vince Carter.
After a bad start, Dirk has proven how well he is capable of adjusting, and is now on his way to full-fledged NBA superstardom-- if he isn't there already. After averaging 23.4 ppg and 9.9 rpg in 2001-2002, Dirk has entered the realm of franchise players like Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson, Shaquille O'Neal, and Tim Duncan. He attended his first All-Star Game as a Western Conference reserve this February, and was also named to the All-NBA third team in 2000-2001, and the All-NBA second team in 2001-2002, becoming the first Maverick to ever receive such an honor. Last season, he was ranked 8th in ppg, and 5th in Defensive Rebounds per Game. He has also displayed amazing versatility-- while he is a natural Small Forward, he usually plays the Power Forward position, and can play the Center position equally well. After leading the German National Team to a bronze medal at the 2002 World Basketball Championships in Indianapolis, Nowitzki was rewarded with the WBC Most Valuble Player title, beating out the likes of Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic, Paul Pierce, and the rest of the American team.