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Green, You Grow; Ripe,You Rot

Dirk Nowitzki’s speech at the 2023 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famewas a standout event that transcended the speeches of his remarkable fellow inductees.

With eloquence, the Mavs icon delivered an inspirational universal blueprint for success and artfully dissected his journey, laying bare the core qualities and values that fueled his rise to greatness*.

🏀 𝐇𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐚 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐦𝐞. Dirk kicked off his speech with a quick thanks, then dove right into talking about his inspiring “𝑸𝒖𝒂𝒍𝒊𝒕𝒊𝒆𝒔 & 𝑽𝒂𝒍𝒖𝒆𝒔.”

🏀 𝐇𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐢𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐓𝐡𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡 𝐄𝐚𝐫𝐥𝐲 𝐀𝐧𝐧𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭: “Thank you to Jerry Colangelo and the Hall of Fame for allowing me to live with this feeling of gratitude for months now.”

Research shows that giving a pleasant surprise early, rather than at the last moment, allows more time for enjoyment. If you’re planning a surprise trip to Paris for a loved one, tell them well in advance; the anticipation itself becomes part of the treat.

🏀 𝐂𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐢𝐭𝐲: “The one guy that comes to mind is my guy, Don Nelson. Nellie… he always saw the game differently and when I came in the league, there were not a lot of coaches that wanted a 7-footer to shoot 3s so my skill set kind of fit perfectly into his system.”

🏀 𝐋𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐡𝐢𝐩:

“Creativity is worth nothing without leadership"

“Creativity is worth nothing without leadership and the guy that comes to my mind is my friend, Steve,” Nowitzki said of Nash. “You were a great role model to me. Best teammate I ever had. You were always positive, you always encouraged me. We worked our butts off at night, went back to the gym and you became a friend for life. Thank you, my friend.”

🏀 𝐂𝐨𝐦𝐩𝐞𝐭𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬: “I had to learn my competitiveness and who better but my guy J-Kidd? I’ll always remember when you came to us, you were already a little older, but you were a warrior,” Nowitzki said of Kidd. “I remember you picking up guys at age 37, 38 picking up guys full court. 94 feet, hustling for us. Making plays on both ends and you were just a wonderful, wonderful all-around player and we won the championship together. We have a bond for life. Thank you so much.”

🏀 𝐇𝐮𝐦𝐨𝐫: Dirk went on about Kidd, eliciting laughter from the crowd: “I would have really loved to play together with those two guys in their primes, but unfortunately I had to deal with what they gave me.”

When he talked about Marc Cuban he joked: “I will always remember when you bought the team and you came to your first practice, you said, ‘Let’s play some one-on-one. I could play a little bit.’ Of course, I drove left like I always do and I dunked it right on your head,” 😀

🏀 𝐑𝐞𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐜𝐭: While the NBA players are highly competitive, they do have respect for each other, for other coaches, and for their entire organization. “There’s one quality that really holds a team together, and that’s respect. That embodies the entire class for me, of ‘23….There’s one guy in this class who I have the utmost respect for and that’s Coach Pop,” Nowitzki explained. “I will never forget you. You wrote me a handwritten note when we won the championship. What you and your organization did at my last game, I’ll forever be grateful. Thank you, my friend To the whole class: It’s an honor to go in with you, I’m truly humbled.”

🏀 𝐋𝐨𝐲𝐚𝐥𝐭𝐲: Nowitzki who played his entire career in the Mavs credited the owner Mark Cuban, for being instrumental in his career path and for being a believer in his potential after buying the team. “Respect is a great thing if you establish it over a long period of time and you get the quality that’s more important to me than any other, and that is loyalty. The guy that embodies that for me is my good friend, Mark Cuban. You have a huge heart and you taught me a lot of lessons in loyalty… We had a great friendship and relationship ever since. Thanks for everything you’ve done for me and for my family. I appreciate it.”

🏀 𝐁𝐞𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐌𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐞𝐝 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐂𝐨𝐚𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐝: Nowitzki praised the valuable lessons from various coaches:

  • Coach Nelson for his willingness to take a risk, including the choice to acquire his draft rights and to stick with him.
  • Coach Carlisle for teaching him how to be detail-oriented. “Coach Carlisle, thank you. You taught me how detail-oriented you have to be to win, really almost obsessive with the attention to detail,… You made us champions and we’ll forever be grateful. Thank you. The lesson there was, ‘Nothing really works without great preparation.”
  • Coach Holger Geschwinder with his unorthodox techniquesserved as a mentor and shooting coach for Nowitzki throughout his NBA career. “And the one crazy that comes to mind is my coach, Holger. You always thought outside the box. I had to walk through the gym in handstands. I had to play the saxophone, I had to play the saxophone while doing the handstand. I mean, what else can I say?”
  • “You taught me everything from the jump shot to how to play,” Nowitzki explained. “Early on, motor skills were always more important than strength training and I think that helped me in my longevity. You became my mentor for my entire career and I will always be grateful for what you did for me. Thanks, Holger.”
  • Great coaches inspire you to extend your strengths to their utmost potential. “Coach Avery, you pushed me to become more than a jump shooter. You developed me into more of a complete player and the lesson here is, you made a difference with your intensity and I’ll always be grateful. Thank you so much.”
  • “The next guy I learned professionalism from is my guy, Michael Finley. You were a true pro, on and off the floor. You let me and Steve grow alongside you and we will always be grateful. I’m still sad you went to the Spurs in ‘06, but we learned so much from you and you became my big brother. You’re always there for me when I need you, so thank you.”

🏀 𝐈𝐭’𝐬 𝐚 𝐓𝐞𝐚𝐦 𝐄𝐟𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐭:

"No one can whistle a symphony, it takes a whole orchestra to play it."

Dirk thanked his teammates and everyone in the Mavs organization including the fans. “No one can whistle a symphony, it takes a whole orchestra to play it. That orchestra, I was very lucky to have one in Dallas and that quality was team spirit.”

🏀 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐕𝐚𝐥𝐮𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐅𝐚𝐦𝐢𝐥𝐲:

“Trying new things always leaves you vulnerable and that’s why you need protection."

  • Support: Dirk praised his sister, her family, and his wife and kids. “You guys always looked out for me and you were always there for me when I needed you.
  • Humility: “The extremely important message and quality is humbleness and I learned that from my parents, [Helga and Jorg-Werner]. You’ve obviously sacrificed so much and put your lives on hold so I can chase our athletic dreams”

🏀 𝐇𝐮𝐦𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐋𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐌𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐬𝐞𝐭

"Remember, when you’re green, you grow. When you’re ripe, you rot."

Dirk wrapped up his speech with words of wisdom for his children, imparting wisdom that’s applicable to all of us: “Find your role models who inspire you along the way. It’s always important in life to always have the drive to improve. To never be satisfied. Always see yourself as someone who wants to learn and not see yourself as someone who knows everything already. I’ve had so many great lessons taught to me by incredible teachers, and you will find them, too. Remember, when you’re green, you grow. When you’re ripe, you rot.”



* If you aren’t familiar with Dirk Nowitzki, who is listed at 7 ft 0 in (2.13 m), he is widely regarded as one of the greatest power forwards of all time. He was the first European player in league history to receive the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award. He spent 21 seasons with the Mavs. He was the star of their 2011 NBA first and, so far, only NBA championship, and he finished sixth all-time in NBA history in scoring.

** Personal note: When I was 12, I coached 11-year-olds in basketball after school. One day, a tall man observed my training and came over, surprised that the kids were so attentive to me. He asked if I’d be willing to train them for pay. Unbeknownst to me, he was the general manager of the nation’s second-best premier league team. He arranged for me to join the youth team and receive training every summer to become a youth basketball coach at the national university for sport. This experience shaped my later leadership journey in the army, the corporate world, and now in working with top leaders around the globe.

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