Do you wish you could go back and relive the 2018-19 season, the only one Dirk Nowitzki and Luka Doncic shared together on the Mavericks’ court?
This weekend could offer the next opportunity.
The two-decade Mavericks legend will host the fifth Dirk Nowitzki Pro Celebrity Tennis Classic on Sunday (from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) at the SMU Tennis Complex.
Following the event’s return after a two-year COVID-related hiatus, Nowitzki will host a number of celebrity-turned-tennis players to raise money and attention The Dirk Nowitzki Foundation benefiting charities that support the health, education and welfare of children in the Dallas area.
On the list of this year’s players: Doncic, actor Ben Stiller, former Mavericks Steve Nash and JJ Barea, current tennis pro John Isner, former American stars Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish and Nowitzki himself.
tickets are available for $41 and free for children under 3 years old.
In a recent conversation with The Dallas Morning NewsNowitzki spoke about his expectations for his foundation’s biggest event of the year, his scouting report on Doncic’s tennis game, and his thoughts on the Mavericks’ highly anticipated upcoming season.
Below are Nowitzki’s answers, edited slightly for length and clarity.
First of all, how are you? After that incredible jersey retirement ceremony and a packed EuroBasket promotion schedule, are you back in Dallas?
I did not expect this result [at EuroBasket]. I mean, a full gym every night, 18,000 people. It was fantastic. I had a nice time. I literally just got back. I was there for the whole two, two and a half weeks [to finish] in Berlin and I only got back on Monday evening. Yes, great participation. sure, The ceremony was so sweetand my family was there so I was super emotional.
It must have been amazing to have so much of the tournament in your home country and then win a medal for the national team for the first time since you led them to silver in 2005.
Yes, I saw the game on Sunday. I was there when we won bronze, so yes, proud and happy that we put on a great event over two and a half weeks. Yes it was a fun time. But I was also ready [to come back]. I’ve been in Europe for months now. I left in June so I was looking forward to coming home and having the tennis event this weekend and then the Mavs season around the corner so I was looking forward to getting back into the routine here.
Speaking of events, I know many are looking forward to this tennis tournament. Tell me what you’re most excited about to get this event rolling again.
We had to take a few years off because of the pandemic. We’re finally back. This is our fifth year with us. It started with me being a huge tennis fan and we wanted to host our own event and tennis was something I’m passionate about so we started this event a few years ago and it’s been fun to see how we grew. Even last year, 2019 before the pandemic, we managed to see the support – it was sold out and Luka played. It was such a great event for us that we really wanted to do it again.
Just looking forward to seeing everyone and getting some great celebrity support again when Luka and Ben Stiller come back. We have some great tennis players coming back in Isner and Roddick and Nash. So I think we’re going to have a great tournament again and of course we’re looking forward to the most important thing – we want to collect donations for the foundation.
As you know, we’ve had the Foundation for 20 years, in 2021 we celebrated our 20th anniversary, and we give grants to some great organizations here in North Texas, children’s organizations and women’s organizations. They do great work and have great projects and we can fund and support them, which means a lot. So I think we’ve been able to impact a lot of lives, and of course we’re very grateful.
What should fans and people coming to the event know about the purpose and reason for bringing all of this together for community service?
We’ve had this baseball event for years, and we haven’t been able to pull it off since the pandemic, but this event, the tennis event, is now our one, only fundraiser for the foundation for the year and a lot more of celebrities are coming in. But we have great support from our supporters and our sponsors so we can do this event and raise a lot of funds for these local charities here that are making a difference in the lives of these children and women. Of course this is a super nice big event but we are raising money for our foundation this weekend and we want to support and influence as many organizations as possible.
I know a lot of Mavericks fans are excited for the start of this season because Luka has had some big games at EuroBasket and seems to be in better shape. What is your perspective on how this will translate to his tennis game? What’s your scouting report on him this weekend?
I’m looking forward to seeing him. I didn’t see him very often in Germany. I didn’t really want to bother him in a big tournament and then they lost and left the next day so I didn’t even see him in Germany but of course we’re super grateful to him for coming early and supporting our event.
His tennis game is, I would say, so-so. There is definitely room for improvement. I always tell him to stick with basketball. No, it means a lot to him to support me and support the foundation and the event, so we’re excited to bring him back. You know he’s the man here so obviously he’s going to draw a lot of attention and it means a lot that he puts his time and support into the event.
I think the feeling between you two is mutual. Apart from Luka, who do you have your eye on as the most exciting player?
We have some great tennis players. We have some guys who are so-so. If you’re there as a tennis fan, you might want to stay with John Isner. BTW I believe he broke his wrist in his last US Open match and he is supporting the event with a broken wrist. You’ll want to see Mardy Fish and Andy Roddick, some of the best the sport has to offer. If you want to have fun you can follow Ben Stiller a little bit more for me. I think there will be more trash talk.
I think the funny thing about the SMU venue is that you sit there. You’re kind of close. You can supervise all the places and it’s fun. You can walk a little and watch a dish. You can go a little bit further and look at another place, so I think that’s the fun of the event – that it’s a family event where it’s interactive. You get to know people, meet people and it will be fun.
Another Mavs-focused question – this time last year there were so many questions about how the season would go with Jason Kidd as the new head coach and I know you played a part in that. What was so effective about Jason’s leadership last year, and what do you envision for the season ahead?
Unfortunately I haven’t been around as often as I should as I travel a lot with the kids but when I’m here I see that he can relate. He can relate to his players. You work hard for him. I think he has a good team around him and it just works.
I think the respect has to go both ways and he treats his players with respect and they respect him for it. I think it’s been a great year, but now it’s like, ‘Can you go on? Can you build from here?’ There’s always pressure when you make the top 4 in the NBA, so we’ll see.
As we all know, it takes time. It’s a process. It takes time to grow anything. You can’t think that the next step would suddenly be winning a championship. I didn’t win until what year, 2011? you have to build You have to be good for a long time to break through.
You have to have the right pieces in place at the right time, but the exciting thing is that we’ve got JKidd, we’ve got Luka, and they’re here hopefully for a long time so you can build on that and hopefully break through one of these years . But we got so close last year and it was such a fun year so hopefully we can have more of it.