The ball left Dirk Nowitzki’s hand like it has thousands of times during his professional career, rising toward the rafters before cannon-balling down to the basket.
The first shot he took Sunday, in likely his last NBA All-Star game, came from deep behind the three-point line on the right wing and splashed through the net, the rim untouched.
The second shot, from the same spot but on the other side of the court, splashed through the same way. A third, from almost the identical spot, also went in.
Nine points on three shots in less than four minutes — a perfect way to go out if it’s indeed Nowitzki’s final season.
“That was obviously awesome,” Nowitzki said. “I wanted to just play a few minutes and hoist up a three and that’s exactly what happened. The first one, I was a little deep. But it’s the last time on this stage, I’m going to go for it, and it went in. The second one I thought, let me step back a little more and see what happens, and it went in too. It was a fun all-around weekend.”
Nowitzki, averaging just 4.7 points in limited minutes during his 21st season with the Dallas Mavericks, hasn’t announced if he’ll return next year.
“I want to see how my body feels the last couple of weeks — if I get to see any improvement, if it's still fun — and I guess we're going to make that decision later,” he said Saturday.
Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade, who like Nowitzki was added to the game by Commissioner Adam Silver, already announced this will be his last season. He had seven points, making two of four shots, and connected with LeBron James for an alley-oop dunk among his four assists in 10 minutes.
During a ceremony honoring the two players before the fourth quarter, Wade said he thought it would be easy to walk away from the game after 16 seasons because of all the talent left on the court.
“I’ve done everything in this game, and I’ve done it over and over again. Missing this game? Missing playing in front of 20,000? Missing this stage? You know you’re going to miss that,” Wade said after the game. “But it’s easy to walk away and understand the game is in great hands. And I’ve given what it was meant for me to give to this game. I’m not leaving everything — but I left a lot.
“And right now, I want to walk away with my health, I want to walk away with my head held high, and I’ll be able to do that after this season.”
Walker’s now the biggest buzz
Portland Trail Blazers guard Seth Curry joked with his father, Dell, recently that if the All-Star game had come to Charlotte two years earlier as originally scheduled, the Hornets could have announced him as the franchise’s all-time leading scorer.
Since then, Kemba Walker has passed the Curry patriarch, moving to the top of the team’s scoring list with 11,329 points. That he got to reach that milestone in what’s become his home city moved him.
“When I got introduced, I kind of got goosebumps at how loud the crowd was for me,” said Walker, an All-Star starter for the first time in his eight-year career after making the game as a reserve the last two years. “I just really appreciate that. They showed me a lot of love.”
Walker, an unrestricted free agent after the season, has expressed a desire to remain in Charlotte. LeBron James said Walker made the Hornets relevant. Stephen Curry, who grew up in Charlotte with Seth and his family, also is impressed.
“Kemba, he's breaking all these records, and it's unbelievable to see, one, how he's established himself as a premier NBA player,” Stephen Curry said. “But to do it here in Charlotte and get the city behind him and give them something to root for, I think it's pretty special and something I respect so much.”
Various All-Stars expressed support for Colin Kaepernick after he and Eric Reid settled their collusion grievances against the NFL.
“I stand with Kap; I kneel with Kap,” James said. “I feel what he was talking about nobody wanted to listen to. Nobody wanted to really understand where he was coming from. I think that anybody that would sacrifice their livelihood for the betterment of all of us, I can respect that. And he’s done that. …
“I hope it’s a hell of a lot of money that can set not only him up but set his grandkids up for the rest of their lives. And I hope that the word of what he did will live on through American history but also world history because it’s important for all of us, not only African Americans, but everybody that wants to stand up for something more important than them.”
Said Kevin Durant: “A lot of people don't agree with what Kap is doing, but I do. And I'm going to stand behind him and support him.”
Both players wore Kaepernick-branded clothing to games before the All-Star break.