Best Maverick - 2006
Readers' Choice: Dirk Nowitzki
Just how gifted is the giant German? Who else could make first-team All-NBA, hang half a hundred on best friend Steve Nash in the Western Conference Finals, lead his team within 4 1/2 quarters of an NBA Championship, reboot the popularity of David Hasselhoff, put Mark Cuban in his place and still somehow call it an empty year? Solidifying himself as one of the best basketball players on the planet, Dirk drastically improved his post-up game and his crunch-time aggressiveness (the driving three-point play over Manu Ginobli in Game 7 against the Spurs is, to this point, his career apex). Just as important, he established himself as the franchise's unapproachable leader. During the WCF trophy presentation he quietly slipped into the background. And after Cuban's embarrassing, debilitating antics in The Finals, Nowitzki publicly warned him to chill it down. A star is almost born.