Dirk Nowitzki Deftly Answers Slightly Racist Interview Question
Throughout the NBA Finals, Dirk Nowitzki was a clear sentimental favorite. Mostly, that had to do with him not being LeBron James, and the general feeling of wanting to see Dirk, who's had such a fantastic career, reach the game's pinnacle.
But it wasn't totally that simple - illustrated most clearly in a German column that praised Nowitzki for defeating LeBron's and Dwyane Wade's style of "ghetto basketball." Never mind that the Heat were one of the NBA's best defensive teams, and that LeBron, if anything, was too unselfish during the Finals. Gee, what ever might it be about LeBron and Wade that would make people think "ghetto" in that case, then?
A similar topic came up during a recent Nowitzki interview with German publication Der Spiegel. It's worth checking out - several interesting topics come up, such as Nowitzki's passion for drumming, his feeling that he's "not cut out for" the massive celebrations he's taken part in seemingly nonstop since winning the title, and his refreshing lack of preachiness about his approach to the game ("Who knows if my way is the right one?"). But...there was also this:
SPIEGEL: After your victory in the finals, US papers printed a photo-montage showing you as a nanny with black babies on your arm. The children bore the faces of star players like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, among others, both of whom are known for their luxurious lifestyles. Is it now your duty to educate such players?
This definitely isn't as bad as the cartoonishly patronizing "ghetto basketball," but the uncomfortable racial element is still there.* The white German's duty is to "educate" those players (explicitly noted as black by the interviewer), with their "luxurious lifestyles" - which are clearly, in this interviewer's mind, misguided? This still doesn't sound very good. (Oh, and as far as luxurious lifestyles go, let's not forget this.) Dirk's response, though, is another story:
Nowitzki: Of course not. American basketball needs players like James and Wade, but the NBA also needs down-to-earth people like me. We players are all part of a show, and it only works in the long term if there is variety, when there is something there for everybody.
This really has it all: not only does he not pass sanctimonious judgment on others' lifestyles, he acknowledges that having diversity of personality in the game is in fact a good thing. And then he fully, freely acknowledged that what he's doing is a "show' for others' entertainment. That doesn't mean he's not insanely dedicated, but he's self-aware. We clearly don't have to worry about the title going to Dirk's head: he seems like the only one who's not blowing his accomplishment out of proportion.
*This is where we remind ourselves that this is a German interview, and there are always different standards of what's acceotable from culture to culture. Did the interviewer mean to say something with murky racial underpinnings? We don't think so, Still, the way Dirk (who's been in America a long time now, but is a born-and-bred German) responds speaks volumes.
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