“Thanks for inviting me over, man,” Dennis Smith Jr. said as he walked into the impressive entryway of Dirk Nowitzki’s suburban-Dallas home. “I like your place. Classy but not in-your-face.”
“Yeah, well, when you’ve made over two hundred million dollars in your career, you get tired of showing it off after a while,” Dirk replied. “That being said, my wine cellar is second to none and I’m gonna go raid it now so we have something good to drink.”
Dennis decided not to bring up the fact that he was not yet of legal drinking age in the United States, for fear of insulting Dirk’s German sensibilities. Instead, he journeyed to the high-ceilinged living room and made himself comfortable on one of the many sofas. Dirk soon returned with a bottle of wine and two wine glasses, which were filled without delay.
Dennis sipped the wine in what he hoped was a thoughtful manner, not wanting to admit that he had know idea what made a wine good or bad. Instead, he asked, “So, we just gonna chill and drink wine all day, or you got some other fun activities planned, or what?”
Dirk set down his glass. “I need your help with something,” he said.
“Like, what, you need me to move some furniture because you’re too old?”
Dirk didn’t even react to this jab at his age. “No. I need your help competing in the dunk contest.”
There was an extended period of silence. Dirk wore a pained expression on his face, while Dennis tried to figure out whether or not Dirk was joking. In the end, he decided Dirk was being serious. “Okay. The dunk contest. I guess I can help with that.”
Immediately brightening up, Dirk replied, “Thank God you didn’t make fun of me. I thought you were going to laugh in my face.” He chugged the rest of his wine and stood up. “Let me show you something,” he said, beckoning Dennis to come with him him. Dennis followed with interest – certainly something that Dirk thought worthy of showing was something worth seeing. They walked down a tucked-away flight of stairs that seemed to contain more steps than expected; at the bottom was a locked door with a keypad.
“Check this out,” Dirk said as he punched in the code. He opened the door to reveal, somehow, a full-sized basement basketball court. Taking advantage of Dennis’ stunned silence, he went on, “Now we can start my dunk contest training right away!”
“Uh, you’re not really dressed for the occasion,” was all Dennis could think to say, noting Dirk’s outfit of slacks and a long-sleeved, collared shirt.
“No problem, I got an entire locker room down here too. Complete with Gatorade fridge!” He disappeared into another door and emerged two minutes later, wearing athletic clothes and brandishing an orange-flavor sports drink. “Let me just loosen up a bit while you come up with your lesson plan to turn me into a Hochfliegende Dunkmaschine!”
As Dirk stretched, Dennis pondered his situation. There was no way he could actually transform Dirk into a high leaper, and without the leaping ability, Dirk couldn’t stay in the air long enough to pull off any kind of impressive dunk. If he did get into the dunk contest, it would only be for irony’s sake, and he would win just by doing something simple like dunking over a chair or dunking while wearing ugly lederhosen. Plus, he didn’t want to accidentally injure Dirk by instructing him to do things he was incapable of.
“So, uh, maybe you could just warm up with some basic dunks. Just run in there and dunk it like this.” He grabbed a ball from the rack, took a slow dribble, and gently deposited the ball with two hands through the hoop.
Dirk mimed Dennis’ dunk, although he didn’t get nearly as high off the ground. “Feeling pretty good,” Dirk noted as he landed. “Nochmal!” However, the landing after his second dunk seemed to cause him some pain. “Ah, nicht so gut,” he said as he rubbed his knees and winced. “Es tut mir weh. Give me a sec.”
“That was good though,” Dennis said, trying to be optimistic. “You definitely dunked it for sure.”
After taking a deep swig of Gatorade and wiping the sweat off his face, Dirk nodded. “I’m ready for more. Show me your tricks.”
Dennis wasn’t sure if any of his “tricks” were within Dirk’s capabilities, but he settled on one that was easy for him, a plain windmill dunk. “Okay, so when you’re doing a windmill, keep the windmill part pretty tight or you’ll never make it,” he explained. “And, uh, make sure to jump high enough.” He easily demonstrated the dunk and then let Dirk have a go at it.
Dirk seemed to trust Dennis’ teaching methods, as he attempted to replicate the dunk without hesitation. Running to the hoop, he jumped, but didn’t get very high, and he slammed the ball into the side of the rim. This caused him to lose balance, and he fell hard to the court, landing on his back. He didn’t move.
For minutes, Dennis thought Dirk was dead. Then, the tall German spoke. “I don’t think the dunk contest is for me. Thanks for trying, though. Now, can you call 911?”