Former All-Star and current NBA analyst Charles Barkley has been on the Dirk Nowitzki bandwagon for a long time. Before picking the Mavs to beat the Thunder, Barkley said about Dirk “In my 30 years around the NBA, he has the most unique game. He’s a 7-foot guy who can shoot 3s, he can put it on the floor” and that was only part of his praise for the German. If you don’t understand where his love for Dirk comes from, it actually goes back several years ago when Barkley saw Dirk play as a teenager. He related the story as a guest on PTI Thursday.
“We’re on one of those Nike trips and I had Scottie Pippen and Gary Payton, and a bunch of great players,” Barkley recalled. “Dirk had 28 at halftime. He was like 16 years old. He finished up with about 42. I told him ‘You name your price, you’re going to Auburn University.’ I said ‘Here’s a blank check, just fill it in. Just fill it in. You’re going to Auburn.’ He said ‘I gotta go into the army.’ I took his information, called a couple months later, and Don Nelson drafts him for the Mavs. You know how great we would have been? Can you imagine how great Auburn would have been if we had the white mamba?”
The main point of the story was to explain how good Dirk was at such an early age, and how obvious to Barkley it was that Dirk was a special player. But if you think he was joking about writing a blank check to get Dirk to Auburn, you’re wrong. Barkley freely admits he took money from agents when he played, and he’ll probably tell you Auburn got Cam Newton cheaply if they only paid $180,000 for him.
And just for factual information, Dirk was actually drafted by Milwaukee and traded for Tractor Traylor. It was easily one of the worst draft-day trades ever, all respect to the late Tractor.