What the NBA did to bid a fond farewell to Wade and Nowitzki at All-Star Game

Dirk Nowitzki looks back at his long-time rivalry with fellow great Dwyane Wade

Dirk Nowitzki looks back at his long-time rivalry with fellow NBA great Dwyane Wade and joining him as an honorary All-Star Sunday in Charlotte.
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Dirk Nowitzki looks back at his long-time rivalry with fellow NBA great Dwyane Wade and joining him as an honorary All-Star Sunday in Charlotte.

The NBA bid a fond farewell to two legendary players during Sunday night’s All-Star Game at Spectrum Center, honoring the illustrious careers of Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade one last time before they retire at the end of the season.

Both players were presented with framed commemorative All-Star jerseys during a ceremony before the start of the fourth quarter. Each took the opportunity to address the crowd.

“Thank you,” said Nowitzki, who scored nine points in four minutes, making all three of his shots from 3-point range for Team Giannis. “Thank you to the commissioner and to the NBA for allowing us to be on this stage again. Much appreciated. We’re very humbled.”

Wade echoed those sentiments as members of both All-Star teams moved in to pose for pictures with the two players.

“We’re very thankful for this opportunity,” said Wade, who finished with seven points and four assists for Team LeBron. “The game is in great hands, so it’s easy to walk away right now. These guys are amazing.”

Wade, 37, is a 13-time All-Star who entered the league in 2003 after the Miami Heat selected him with the fifth pick in the NBA draft. Nowitzki, 40, is a 14-time All-Star who was immediately traded to the Dallas Mavericks after the Milwaukee Bucks selected him with the ninth pick in the 1998 draft.

Both players were making their final All-Star appearances after NBA commission Adam Silver, acting on an email suggestion from a fan, created roster exceptions to allow the two aging stars to grace the game’s biggest stage one more time.

Wade and Nowitzki swapped jerseys following the Heat’s 112-101 victory over the Mavericks on Wednesday in Dallas. After entering the game at the same time with 5:11 to play in the opening period, both players turned back the clock a bit. Wade scored a game-high 22 points. Nowitzki had 12.

Two legends Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade exchanged jerseys after Wednesday's game. Dirk: "I felt a little naked out there."

They clashed in the NBA Finals twice. Wade helped Miami beat Dallas to win the NBA title in 2006. Nowitzki led the Mavericks to a series victory over the Heat when they met again in 2011.

“Like I’ve said, after ‘06, we had some frosty times, but I think that’s way behind us,” Nowitzki told ESPN earlier this week. “I always said he pushed me to be the player in ’11 to ultimately win.”

Wade and Nowitzki checked in together again in Sunday’s All-Star Game, entering the game to a rousing ovation with just under a minute remaining in the first quarter. Nowitzki quickly made his mark on the game, launching a long 3-pointer from the right wing that hit nothing but net. He did it again with 2.9 seconds remaining, this time from the left wing.

Wade also made a 3-pointer in the first half and delivered a highlight reel dunk early in the second half, catching a lob from friend and former teammate LeBron James. Moments later, Wade returned the favor, flipping the ball high into the air for James, who threw down an emphatic alley-oop dunk.

Wade and Nowitzki were featured in a video presentation inside the arena during the game.

“This is definitely going to be a special one,” Nowitzki said.

Wade seemed to agree.

“I’m just going to enjoy it, take some pictures and enjoy the game more,” he said.

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Jason Anderson is an award-winning sportswriter for The Sacramento Bee. He started his journalism career at The Bee more than 20 years ago and returned to cover the Sacramento Kings in September 2018.