In this blog, we will compare the careers of two NBA greats: Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki. Both players have had decorated careers, with multiple championships and MVP awards between them. However, their styles of play are very different. Duncan was a dominant big man who controlled the paint, while Nowitzki was sharpshooting forward who could score from anywhere on the court.
We will examine each player’s career achievements and try to determine who was the better player. Let’s find out with RedsArmy
Tim Duncan Vs Dirk Nowitzki
NBA Championships and Seasons
|Tim Duncan||Dirk Nowitzki|
Regular Season Statistics
During their 17-year rivalry on the court, Nowitzki and Duncan met 57 times in the regular season, with Duncan and the Spurs winning 35 of those games. In the 57 games, the two were separated by a total of 12 points, 30 assists, and 12 steals. The table below shows their complete per-game stats versus one another.
Playoffs by the Numbers
Going back and forth on the floor for 17 years creates a fantastic rivalry, but any rivalry needs to have memorable postseason meetings, which Dirk versus Duncan had. The Mavericks and Spurs met in 33 postseason games with Dirk and Duncan on the court, spanning six playoff series, with the Spurs winning four of those. Their postseason stats were nearly equal to their regular season numbers.
Stats Per Game
|Tim Duncan||Dirk Nowitzki|
|Points Per Game||19.0||20.7|
|Rebounds Per Game||10.8||7.5|
|Assists Per Game||3.0||2.4|
|Steals Per Game||0.7||0.8|
|Blocks Per Game||2.2||0.8|
|Tim Duncan||Dirk Nowitzki|
Tim Duncan, the first overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, was coming off a fantastic rookie season in which he won NBA Rookie of the Year, and his next big competitor was about to enter the league. But getting the big man to Dallas was not an easy task for Dirk and the Mavs. The Mavericks were the sixth overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft. Dirk and Steve Nash met in Texas after a sequence of four moves.
- Dallas selected Robert Traylor with the sixth overall pick. Traylor went on to play seven seasons in the NBA, averaging 4.8 points per game.
- The Milwaukee Bucks picked Dirk Nowitzki with the ninth overall pick and Pat Garrity with the nineteenth overall pick.
- The Mavericks and Bucks reached an arrangement that sent Traylor to Milwaukee while returning Nowitzki and Garrity to Dallas.
- The Mavericks then traded Garrity to the Suns for Steve Nash, who would go on to become a two-time All-Star with the Mavs before returning to the Suns in 2004. Garrity averaged 7.3 points per game over his 10-year NBA career. The Mavericks got the better end of both transactions in the 1998 NBA Draft.
Finally, Dirk and Duncan could begin their 17-year rivalry. However, the rivalry did not get off to a good start during the 1998-99 season. Their debut match took place on March 4, 1999. The Dallas Mavericks were playing below.500 basketball, while the San Antonio Spurs were the top team in the Western Conference.
Duncan and the Spurs won the game by a score of 16 points. Duncan ended with 26 points and 12 rebounds, while Dirk came off the bench to score 11 points and grab 6 rebounds.
The rivalry began to boil up over the first three years the two spent in the NBA, but it reached a fever pitch during the 2001 NBA Playoffs.
2001 NBA Playoffs
After the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs, each beat their first-round opponents, the first of six playoff series between Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki was set. As the top seed in the Western Conference, the Spurs were big favorites coming into the series.
The Spurs won the series in five games, as predicted. San Antonio’s victories were all by double digits, with Dallas’ lone victory coming in Game 4 in front of the Dallas faithful.
Duncan ended the series averaging 27 points and 17.4 rebounds per game. Dirk was the Mavericks’ hero throughout the series, scoring 30 points in Game 4 and 42 points in Game 7. He ended the series with 23 points each game. Upsetting the top-seeded Spurs never appeared conceivable, but this series demonstrated that the Mavericks had a star on their hands, someone who could fight toe-to-toe with Tim Duncan for years to come.
December 26th, 2001
About 30 games into the 2001/02 NBA season, the Mavericks and Spurs were leading the Western Conference. Dallas was 18-9 into their legendary regular-season clash, while the Spurs were 20-5.
The game was closely contested throughout, with 13 lead changes and 12 ties. The Mavericks led 86-82, heading into the fourth quarter. Then it was Nowitzki versus. Duncan. Dirk scored 11 points in a row to begin the opening half of the fourth quarter. Duncan’s turn came immediately after Nowitzki’s 11th straight score. Duncan responded with a 13-point run of his own, and it was suddenly a one-point game with three minutes remaining.
With strong points from Steve Nash and a crucial three from Terry Porter, this game was going to OT.
Steve Nash and Tim Hardaway took over for the Mavericks in overtime, scoring all ten of Dallas’ overtime points. Tim Duncan was doing everything he could to hold Dirk in check and lead the Spurs offensively, scoring all 7 of San Antonio’s overtime points, but with 2 seconds remaining, Steve Nash sealed the deal.
2006 NBA Playoffs
Jumping ahead to the 2006 NBA Playoffs, one of the most legendary series in the NBA in the 2000s, was about to begin. The top-seeded Spurs were poised to face the Dallas Mavericks in the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs.
However, because of the way the NBA seeding was done based on divisions in 2006, this was the headline matchup in the West. The Spurs and Mavericks were by far the top two teams in the West, with the Spurs finishing 63-19 and Dallas finishing 60-22.
- Game 1: Spurs 87 – 85 Mavericks. Spurs lead the series 1 – 0.
- Tim Duncan: 31 PTS, 13 REB, 4 AST
- Dirk Nowitzki: 20 PTS, 14 REB
The game was knotted at 84, with 3:28 left in the fourth quarter. The Spurs went on to limit the Mavericks to one free throw the rest of the way, with Dirk only earning one down the line.
- Game 2: Mavericks 113 – 91 Spurs. Series tied 1 – 1
- Tim Duncan: 28 PTS, 9 REB, 3 AST
- Dirk Nowitzki: 21 PTS, 9 REB, 3 STL
The only game in the series with a double-digit win. The Mavericks get a home-court advantage.
- Game 3: Mavericks 104 – 103 Spurs. Mavericks lead the series 2 – 1.
- Tim Duncan: 35 PTS, 12 REB, 2 AST
- Dirk Nowitzki: 27 PTS, 15 REB, 3 AST
There were a total of 12 lead changes in the fourth quarter. With 17 seconds left in the game, the Spurs are up by one and need a defensive stop to reclaim home-court advantage and take the series lead. They get their stop, forcing a missed jumper by Jerry Stackhouse, but they can’t control the rebound. Dirk grabs the board, is fouled and sinks two free throws with 8 seconds remaining to win the game.
- Game 4: Mavericks 123 – 118 Spurs. Mavericks lead the series 3 – 1.
- Tim Duncan: 31 PTS, 13 REB, 6 AST
- Dirk Nowitzki: 28 PTS, 9 REB, 3 AST
Game 4 looked eerily identical to Game 3 in the first overtime game of the series. With 15 seconds remaining in regulation, the Spurs led 111-109, needing just one more stop to level the series going back to San Antonio. Dirk Nowitzki was fouled and sent to the line in a similar way, but not after an offensive rebound. He drilled both and sent the game to overtime, where the Mavericks never looked back.
- Game 5: Spurs 98 – 97 Mavericks. Mavericks lead the series 3 – 2.
- Tim Duncan: 36 PTS, 12 REB, 4 AST
- Dirk Nowitzki: 31 PTS, 10 REB, 4 AST
The Spurs were fighting for their playoff survival in Game 5 on their own court, thanks to Tim Duncan’s 21-point second quarter. With 15 seconds remaining and the Spurs ahead 98-97, the Mavericks possessed the ball. Then anarchy broke loose. San Antonio hung on via a sequence of blocked shots, two jump balls won by Dallas, and a missed jumper by Jason Terry as time expired, forcing a Game 6 in Dallas.
- Game 6: Spurs 91 – 86 Mavericks. Series tied 3 – 3.
- Tim Duncan: 24 PTS, 8 REB
- Dirk Nowitzki: 26 PTS, 21 REB, 5 AST
Another tight game that came down to the wire offered the Mavericks a chance to tie the score with 12 seconds remaining. Dallas called a timeout after the Spurs had established an 89-86 lead. The Mavericks did not receive the shot they desired, as Dirk forced up a difficult fadeaway three, setting up a Game 7 for ages.
- Game 7: Mavericks 119 – 111 Spurs. Mavericks win series 4 – 3.
- Tim Duncan: 41 PTS, 15 REB, 6 AST
- Dirk Nowitzki: 37 PTS, 15 REB, 3 AST
To be honest, the Mavericks were in a position to win this game the entire time. They had led the overtime game for all but 11 seconds, but those 11 seconds are what make this game a classic.
With 30 seconds remaining and the game deadlocked, Manu Ginobili stepped up and nailed a cold-blooded three-pointer, giving the Spurs a 104-101 advantage. Then, Dirk Nowitzki returned and converted an and-one to tie the game. The Spurs took a timeout, preparing for the game-winning shot. Manu drove to the basket, missed, then had his shot blocked from behind by Dirk. The Mavericks did not offer the Spurs any hope in overtime, cruising to a 119-111 victory in a season that would eventually bring them to the NBA Finals.
The averages were off the charts at the end of the series.
- Tim Duncan: 32.3 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 3.7 APG
- Dirk Nowitzki: 27.1 PPG, 13.3 RPG, 2.7 APG
The 2006 NBA Playoff series was the pinnacle of Dirk vs. Duncan. They would have many more legendary regular season clashes and three more playoff series against each other, but the back-and-forth action and grind-it-out style of play between two of the finest power forwards in the game fuelled a tremendous rivalry.
While the current NBA season is on hold, media outlets are still keeping us updated. For example, SBD’s basketball betting and news are constantly updated. With NBA futures available to bet on, the NBA draft in June will have a significant influence on the Championship odds for this and next season.
Scoring – Dirk Nowitzki
Tim Duncan averaged 19.0 PPG in his career, with his highest scoring season coming in 2002, when he averaged 25.5 PPG. Duncan shot 50.6% from the field and 69.6% from the free-throw line in his career. Duncan shot 17.9% from three over his career. Dirk, on the other hand, averaged 20.7 PPG while shooting 47.1% from the field, 87.9% from the free throw line, and 38.0% from three. Dirk had his highest scoring season in 2006, averaging 26.6 points per game.
Overall, Dirk Nowitzki is a better scorer owing to his long-range shooting and devastating fadeaway jumper. Duncan possessed the famed off-the-backboard mid-range jumper, but he couldn’t shoot like Dirk, giving the German the advantage.
Athleticism – Even
Both superstars are not recognized for their athleticism, despite having significantly different games. Duncan was very powerful in the post and could pound down low with strong men all game, whereas Dirk was more finesse and not much of a defender. Duncan and Dirk are difficult to discern since they both played under the rim. Duncan was stronger than Dirk and could withstand more impact when defending, but Dirk was longer and an inch taller, which allowed him to score more easily. This one is balanced overall.
Defense – Tim Duncan
This is not even close. Tim Duncan is perhaps the finest defensive power forward in NBA history, and his career demonstrates this. Duncan was named to 15 All-Defensive Teams and averaged 2.2 BPG over his career. Duncan’s defensive awareness was a big reason the Spurs were so dominating for so long, and his basketball IQ is unrivaled. Dirk was never much of a defender, never making an All-Defensive Team and averaging only 0.8 BPG as a 7-footer. Duncan has the upper hand, and there is no disputing it.
Clutch – Even
Because of their clutch talents, both athletes have become legendary. But they went about it in different ways. Duncan was the guy who could make a game-winning play on either end of the floor, whether it was by blocking a shot or snatching a crucial rebound. He was a defensive beast who could also score from mid-range or in the post in crunch time.
Dirk was a rare offensive talent who could pull off his one-legged fadeaway whenever he chose, leaving opposition defenses at the mercy of the German. Dirk was also unguardable from the free-throw line. Dirk was a stronger clutch scorer than Duncan, but Duncan was also capable of making game-winning defensive plays, so this is a tie.
Leader – Tim Duncan
Both superstars were outstanding leaders, but it is difficult to argue against Duncan for everything he accomplished during his career. Dirk never played with Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili, but he never led a team like Duncan. Tim Duncan was everything for the Spurs, and without him, there would be no dynasty or a total of 5 NBA rings on Greg Popovich’s hand, no matter how brilliant a coach he is.
Duncan was the Spurs’ finest defensive player, leader, and all-around player. Dirk was the Mavericks’ franchise star and perhaps their greatest-ever player, but this one has to go to Tim Duncan.
Basketball IQ – Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan makes a strong case for being the finest basketball IQ of all time. On the floor, he did everything well, seldom making a mistake or taking poor shots on offense. Duncan was usually in the correct spot on defense and was a force on both ends of the court. Duncan was ultimately the reason the Spurs won games, whether on offense or defense.
Dirk Nowitzki had a higher basketball IQ and more options to score the ball than Duncan, but he wasn’t as powerful on defense. Duncan’s basketball IQ helped him become a better passer, rebounder, and overall player. Duncan had the advantage, yet Dirk was also a very good player.
The influence of these two stars is too close to call. Tim Duncan had the superior overall game, but Nowitzki is one of the league’s all-time leading scorers. What Duncan brought to defense is what Dirk might provide to attack, and they are both guys who can win games for their teams on their own. Duncan and Nowitzki had Hall of Fame contributions for the Spurs and Mavericks, respectively, as players who spent their whole careers with the same organization.
1 on 1 Game – Even
Tim Duncan is widely regarded as the greatest outstanding two-way power forward of all time. He possessed the stature and abilities to score while also getting defensive stops in one on one situations. Duncan was the perfect team player, yet he could also win one-on-one battles. Dirk Nowitzki may not be able to get stops like Duncan, but his offense is so good that he can keep up with the Spurs icon.
Dirk was unbeatable while defending with a single player, yet he could also win an NBA championship when facing double or triple teams, as demonstrated by his 2011 ring. Even if Dirk wasn’t a strong defender, he possessed an incredible one-legged fadeaway shot that was good enough to tie the game.
Career – Tim Duncan
This one isn’t even close since Tim Duncan is the greatest accomplished power forward in history. Duncan has five rings, three Finals MVPs, two MVPs, and 15 All-Star Team choices. Duncan did everything in the game, both individually and as a team, and no other player at the position comes close.
Dirk Nowitzki won the NBA championship in 2011 and was named MVP in 2007, in addition to being on 14 All-Star teams. However, it is undeniable that Duncan had the finest career of any power forward of all time.
Tim Duncan defeated Dirk Nowitzki 4-1.
Dirk Nowitzki was a superior offensive player and one of the best shooters of all time, but Duncan had a greater effect on the game during his career. Tim Duncan’s defensive leadership and all-around game helped him win 5 NBA rings throughout his career, making him the best power forward in NBA history.
Honors and Awards
|Tim Duncan||Dirk Nowitzki|
|All-NBA First Tea||10||4|
|All-Defensive 1st Team||8|
|Rookie of The Year||1|
Who is better, Tim Duncan or Kevin Garnett?
Tim Duncan recorded 2,092 assists in his career and ranked 22nd all-time for power forwards in that regard. Garnett, on the other hand, recorded 4,149 assists in his career and ranked only behind Karl Malone for the most assists by a power forward of all time.
- Read more: Tim Duncan vs Kevin Garnett
2. Who is better, Kevin Garnett or Dirk Nowitzki?
Overall, Nowitzki finished as the No. 6 All-Time Leading Scorer in NBA history with a total of 31,560 points, whereas Garnett finished as the No. 17 All-Time Leading Scorer with a total of 26,071 points.
In short, it is clear that Tim Duncan is a better player than Dirk Nowitzki. Duncan has proven himself to be a more consistent and reliable player throughout his career, while Nowitzki has been more prone to inconsistency. Duncan is also a better defender and rebounder, while Nowitzki is a better shooter.