All-Time Greats: Dirk Nowitzki vs Tim Duncan

Back in June of 2017, someone was wrong on the internet. I can’t stand for that – so the following was a resolution to a question that I know has been burning in the minds of American sports fans for years. And if you think about it – I’ve only gotten more right as time has gone on in the battle of Dirk Nowitzki vs Tim Duncan!

Who’s Better? NBA: Dirk Nowitzki vs Tim Duncan

Here it is, the debate that has been raging for years…at least in the Prinz home. I will set out to prove what I have vehemently argued for, that Dirk Nowitzki is a better player than Tim Duncan. Team accomplishments aside (because is NBA Champion Chris Anderson really better than no-ring Charles Barkley? Of course not). What makes a player better than another player? A series of things. First of all, physical abilities. What is a player capable of or what has he proven he can do? Secondly, statistics. What has a player actually done? Thirdly, legacy. What will he be remembered for? This is balanced by his supporting cast. Be ready, this is a big one.

I will compare Duncan and Nowitzki in these 3 areas and then present my answer. All stats taken from and Wikipedia (shut up).

Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk stands in at 7’0″ weighing a trim 237. He was selected 9th overall by Milwaukee in ’98 and then traded to Dallas with Pat Garrity for Robert Traylor (Top 10 worst trade in sports history).

He has logged 3000+ minutes 6 of his 15 seasons, dipping below 2000 only in his first and most recent year (2013 due to a knee injury). Even this last year he kept up a streak of 14 years in a row of 31 or better minutes per game.

He made 151 3 pointers in 2005 and has 1340 for his career at a 38% clip, this is very good – compared with sharpshooter Mike Miller: 1420 40%. Especially for a 7 footer!

Let’s compare with several others 6’10” or better…

NameHeightCareerTotal 3P %
Robert Horry6’10”79534 %
Chris Bosh6’10”8729%
Shaquille O’Neal7’1″15%
Marc Gasol7’0″3424%
Mehmet Okur6’11”59838%
Brad Miller6’11”20033%
Rasheed Wallace6’10″”108634%

As you can see, there’s never been a shooter his size. Okur shot much fewer and Wallace much less efficiently. Kevin Durant is listed at 6’9″ on BBallRef but he’s shooting 3’s at a 37% clip, virtually identical to Dirk’s career average a full 3 inches shorter.

He pulled 791 boards in 2002, 120 on the offensive glass in ’01, and has 9096 for his career. This is low for a power forward, but let’s consider two factors. First of all, he plays on the perimeter, let’s look at other perimeter forwards’ offensive board numbers:

Kevin Durant (6 years): 395 Dirk (First 6 years): 553 Peja Stojakovic (13 years): 747 Dirk (First 13 years) 1199 Once again, taking the 3 point shooting and offensive rebounding together gives you a picture of what Dirk brings to the table.

Secondly, he played with good offensive rebounders:

  • Shawn (the Stormin’ Mormon) Bradley [while playing with Dirk]: 796 offensive boards.
  • Erik Dampier [While with Dirk]: 1224 (and he lead the NBA with 334 the year before joining the Mavs)

Compared to era centers:

  • Marcus Camby: 2480 (while contemporary with Dirk, only leaving out his rookie season) only 400 more than Bradley and Dampier.
  • Yao Ming: 1233 (direct contemporary to Dampier’s career with Dirk, only 9 more!)
  • Andrew Bogut: 1216 (ditto but with 8 less)

So, no I didn’t put Shaq or Dwight Howard up there, but obviously, if Dirk had played with them he’d have less offensive boards but more offensive chances. Compared to average centers (and Yao, Camby, and Bogut are usually considered a bit above average) Bradley and Dampier were good rebounders.

Defensively he was nicknamed “Irk” because he had no “D” early in his career. Is this fair? Let’s take a look.

His peak at defensive win shares was in 2002 at 5.3, career total at 50.9 (that’s 3.4 a year)

Other similar players with a similar build or defensive responsibilities:

  • Kevin Durant (who is the best comparison physically I know of) is at 21.9 thru 6 seasons (3.65)
  • Mike Miller: 19.4 for his career
  • Mehmet Okur: 21.3 for his career
  • Chris Bosh: 30.1 (3 per season, most would have Chris as a better defender than Dirk but not the numbers)
  • Kevin Garnett: 87.4 (4.85 arguably the best defensive PF ever)

This, in my opinion, shows Dirk is possibly a below-average defender but actually contributes more than people give him credit for. Was he ever a 1st team all-D candidate? No, but he wasn’t somebody you could pick on either, which was his reputation. But why did he get this reputation? Let’s try to dig deeper…going through the game logs I found each instance these premier power forwards faced Dirk and the results (I am leaving Duncan off till the conclusion).

Garnett vs DAL ’98-’13: Reg Season: W-L for Garnett (17-22); <10(1); 11-20(12); 21-30(22); 31-40(4)

Playoffs: W-L for Garnett (0-3); <10(0); 11-20(1); 21-30(1); 31-40(1)

Webber vs DAL ’98-13: Reg Season: W-L for Webber (11-10); <10(2); 11-20(10); 21-30(7); 31-40(2)

Playoffs: W-L for Webber (9-3); <10(0); 11-20(3); 21-30(6); 31-40(3)

Rasheed vs DAL ’98-13: Reg Season: W-L for Sheed (16-15); <10(6); 11-20(15); 21-30(6); 31-40(4)

Playoffs: W-L for Sheed (3-4); <10(0); 11-20(5); 21-30(2); 31-40(0)

I could show more, but I think this is sufficient. I didn’t confirm Dirk played in every one of these games, so it’s possible some of the numbers don’t apply, but here’s what I see in these games. Webber killed Dirk in the playoffs, but on the whole, Dirk kept him at or below his averages. Garnett got his 20 a majority of the time but Dirk crushed him in the playoffs when it mattered most. Sheed was characteristically streaky, but again, never was able to bust out against Dirk in their two playoff match-ups. What this doesn’t show, but if you were to look at the game logs you would notice, Dirk (and Dallas’ D) got stronger as he got older. Granted, Webber and Sheed aged fast, but even Garnett didn’t score more than 28 after the first 5 seasons. All this to say, Dirk was/is an average defender, and coupled with his elite offense is better than Duncan. Need more? Let’s continue.

His career highs are 26.6/9.9/3.5/1.4/1.5 at 52/42/92

(those are pts/rbs/ast/stl/blk at fg%/3p%/ft%).

His peak season was was 26.6/9.0/2.8/0.7/1.0 at 48/40/90.

(Sheed: 19.3/8.2/1.9/1.3/1.3 at 47/36/73)

His career averages are 22.6/8.2/2.6/0.9/0.9 at 48/38/88.

(Webber: 20.7/9.8/1.4/1.4/2.8 at 48/30/65)

His 10 best games:

Regular Season: brutally difficult to select 10

’04 53-16-2-3st-4bl

’03 43-4-8 3’s

’05 51-9-5

’07 34-10-10-4 3’s

’01 33-23-8-4bl

’01 40-11-6 3’s

’02 34-18-4-6 3’s

’01 38-17-3st

’06 43-12-2

’07 42-12

5 best in the Playoffs: even more challenging to pick these

’06 50-12-3-5 3’s

’00 42-18-2-6st

’02 46-10-4 3’s

’08 44-13-3

’01 39-17-3st

His finest moment:

’11 21-11-1-2st (Game 7 clincher)

He led the league in PER (Player efficiency rating) ’05-06 and finished top 10 in 10 of his 15 seasons. He’s 6th among active players and 18th all-time.

He dished out 200+ dimes 8 straight seasons from ’02-’10 minus ’09 when he only had 197. He topped out at 266 in ’07. 2923 total for his career, 196th all-time. If he hits 3000 he’ll pass the following: Greg Anthony, Johnny Dawkins, Doug Christie, Rolando Blackman, Anthony Mason, Tom Gola, Kendall Gill, Howard Komives, Antonio Daniels and Bob Weiss. He also trails former teammate Devin Harris by 3. He’s 103 behind Shaq and 32 more to Hakeem. (Garnett is at 51st all-time with 5224) (Sheed: 1 200 ast season, 1994 in 16 yr career)

He swiped over 100 passes in ’02 and blocked more than 100 shots 3 different times in his career. He sits 75th all-time in blocks and 158th in steals.

He won the MVP in ’06-07 and finished in the top 12 in voting 11 times, 3 times in the top 3. He is 7th among active players in MVP vote shares and 22nd all-time. He went to 11 straight all-star games, has been 1st team all-NBA 4 times, 2nd team 5 times, and 3rd team 3 other times. That’s all-NBA 12 of his 15 seasons!

He’s 3rd in points scored among active players, 17th all-time (top 20!) 13th in career FT%. He’s 6th among active rebounders and 4th in free throw attempts. In ’06-07 he logged a 50/40/90 which has only been done by 6 players, Steve Nash (his teammate), Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, and recently Kevin Durant. Add in Ray Allen, and you have the greatest shooters of all time (with the possible addition of Steph Curry sometime soon). That’s right, Dirk Nowitzki, a seven-footer with over 9000 rebounds is one of the greatest shooters ever.

I mentioned defensive win shares. Dirk was average in that category. Now let’s talk offensive win shares.

Dirk stands at 11th all-time, above names like Shaquille O’Neal, Moses Malone, Magic Johnson, LeBron James (for now), and someone to be named later. The 10 names above him hold really only one surprise:

1. Kareem

2. Wilt

3. Oscar

4. MJ

5. Stockton

6. Karl

7. Reggie Miller (?????)

8. West

9. Bryant

10. Barkley

11. DIRK

That’s a great list.

When offensive and defensive are combined you get total win shares, Dirk is currently 13th all-time, 3rd among active, and just ahead of Kobe Bean Bryant. Because the stat can be compiled there’s also WinShares/48 min (essentially per game). Dirk is 14th, 5th among active, and just ahead of Shaq and John Stockton. Basketball reference creates a similarity comparison chart with 10 other players and shows their win shares across their careers (and the duration of the player being compared). The players rated as similar to Dirk are: LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Dr. J, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Larry Bird, Bob Pettit, Dolph Schayes, and Adrian Dantley. THAT’s a list. What is…the greatest forwards in NBA history?

Interestingly, and of course conveniently, Dirk scores quite well.

Year 1: 5th…….(Duncan 3rd)

Year 2: 6th…….(Duncan 4th)

Year 3: 4th…….(Duncan 8th)

Year 4: 2nd…….(Duncan 8th)

Year 5: 3rd…….(Duncan 7th)

Year 6: 4th…….(Duncan 6th)

Year 7: 3rd…….(Duncan 4th)

Year 8: 3rd…….(Duncan 7th)

Year 9: 3rd…….(Duncan 4th)

Year 10: 2nd…….(Duncan 3rd)

Year 11: 2nd…….(Duncan 3rd)

Year 12: 6th…….(Duncan 2nd)

Year 13: 5th…….(Duncan 2nd)

Year 14: 6th…….(Duncan 1st)

Year 15: 6th…….(Duncan 2nd)

In 9 of his 15 seasons (9 straight) he contributed more to the wins of his teams than Tim Duncan did to his. Year 3, 5, and 8 he contributed much more.

Ok, so you’ve got an idea on how good Dirk is. It’s time to shift gears and present the case for the Big Fundamental.

Tim Duncan

Timmy is 6’11” 248 lbs according to BBall Ref

He led the league in games played his first two seasons (50 in the strike-shortened ’98). He entered the league one year before Dirk. Tim was selected 1st overall by San Antonio in ’97 and hasn’t moved since.

He’s logged 3000 min only 4 times in his career but has only come off the bench twice in his 1180 game career.

In 2001 he led the league in field goals made, free throws made, defensive rebounds, and total rebounds. It was his peak season which slashed out to 25.5/12.7/3.7/0.7/2.5 at a 51/10/80 clip. That’s awesome numbers (it’s not Dirk’s 27 and 9 while shooting 38 from 3) but it’s still awesome, I mean 4 assists and 2 1/2 blocks a game? Nasty.

His career average

20.2/11.2/3.1/0.7/2.2 at 50/18/70

(22.6/8.2/2.6/0.9/0.9 at 48/38/88 Dirk, in case you forgot)

His peak #s

25.5/12.9/3.9/0.9/2.9 at 55/40(.1 attempt per game)/82(’13)

He doesn’t shoot 3’s. He’s hit 28 in 154 tries, that’s 18%. (Dirk hit 151 in one year). He’s also a shaky free throw shooter, only this last year crossing the mythical 80% line and for the most part, hovering around 70%. To compare to other great power forwards:

Garnett: 79%

Barkley: 74%

Sheed: 72%

Webber: 65%

So while not as bad as C-Webb, he falls on the low side of the great PFs, Dirk’s 88% is top 20 all-time.

Duncan has pulled 13,219 boards, good enough for 13th all-time and 2nd among active players. He led the league, as I mentioned, in ’01 and has been top 5 in the league 11 times. On the offensive glass, he sits at 15th all-time and yanked down 200+ 12 times in his career. Now, let’s compare the guys pulling boards with him. For his first 6 seasons, he played with Hall-of-Fame Center David “The Admiral” Robinson. A beast, who pulled 300+ OBrds 3 times, led the league in total rebounding twice and was still banging inside when Duncan came along. The following catalogs the litany of centers and power forwards that have rotated through Pop’s frontcourt

Robinson pulled 1143 offensive boards while they played together (6 seasons) 191.5 per season

Nesterovic 556 in 3 yrs 185 per

Blair 635 in 4 years 159 per

Perdue 210 in 2 yrs 155 per

McDyess 271 in 2 yrs 135 per

Rose 788 in 6 yrs 131 per

Mohammed 241 in 2 yrs 120 per

Splitter 309 in 3 years 103 per

Elson 81 in 1 yr

Kurt Thomas 160 in 2 yrs 80 per

Horry 378 in 5 years 76 per

Oberto 433 in 6 yrs 72 per

Walker 144 in 2 yrs 72 per

Willis 120 in 2 yrs 60 per

Bonner 380 in 7 years 54 per

Nobody else played more than 1 year with more than 50 offensive boards per year.

(I couldn’t help but notice the production level of Splitter vs Bonner).

Why did I gather this data you ask? For the same reason, I showed Bradley and Dampier’s numbers. Notice that Shawn and Erik would be #2 and #3 on this list. In reality, Nesterovic, Mohammed, and Perdue are the only players not named Robinson on this list that had any type of career at the center position. Horry, Willis, Thomas, and McDyess were all decent power forwards. The rest were a bunch of scrubs. Duncan was the rebounder, it was his job, it is no surprise he pulled 4000 more boards than Dirk, other than the first 6 seasons, Duncan was the only rebounder on his team. That is not saying Tim’s bad at it. His career 9.9% OReb% is 67th all-time (Dirk does not place in the top 300). In fact, Duncan is a great rebounder, but his advantage over Dirk is less than the average fan believes.

Now to his Defense. My esteemed father believes Duncan to be a top 5 defensive player all time. Let’s see.

He blocked 200 shots 3 times and less than 100 only once in his 16-year career. His 2.652 have him 1st among active players and 8th all-time, he trails Shaq by 80, so an average Duncan season would have him within 50 of Patrick Ewing and the top 6. He never led the league in blocks but finished top 5 in 6 different seasons, including ’13. This is amazing, but is it “good defense.” Yes. In Defensive Win Shares, he has led the league 5 times, is the active leader, and stands 5th all-time. However, I went ahead and checked the aforementioned contemporaries which I dug up on Dirk, to see if anybody had his number. Results below:

Garnett vs SAS ’97-’13: Reg Season: W-L for Garnett (24-25); <10(2); 11-20(24); 21-30(18); 31-40(5)

Playoffs: W-L for Garnett (2-6); <10(0); 11-20(3); 21-30(5); 31-40(0)

Webber vs SAS ’97-13: Reg Season: W-L for Webber (9-17); <10(2); 11-20(11); 21-30(9); 31-40(4)

Playoffs: W-L for Webber (0-0); <10(0); 11-20(0); 21-30(0); 31-40(0)

Rasheed vs SAS ’97-13: Reg Season: W-L for Sheed (17-19); <10(11); 11-20(14); 21-30(11); 31-40(0)

Playoffs: W-L for Sheed (3-8); <10(3); 11-20(6); 21-30(2); 31-40(0)

Wow. He definitely dominated Sheed according to these numbers. 14 of the 47 match-ups Wallace managed only 10 or fewer points. Dirk allowed 14 30+ point games to these 3, Duncan allowed 9, none of which were in the playoffs. Garnett was slightly more successful against Duncan but faced him a whopping 49 times so there was a certain amount of inevitability that a player like KG would get his.

In short, Duncan is, as my Dad says, one of the top 5 greatest defensive forwards ever. (Kareem, Hakeem, Garnett, Russell, and Duncan). Does that make him better than Dirk? In my opinion, no. Garnett is on that list, higher than Duncan, and maybe another day I can demonstrate that Duncan is better than Garnett.

How about Duncan’s offense? We already noticed he has no 3 pt shot and was below average from the free-throw line, however he’s got skills. In many cases, a Duncan endorser would post a series of videos of him turning and banking a 15 footer with the defender falling down or closing too late. As far as I can tell, according to these videos, no one has ever contested Duncan, ever. This, of course, is not true, however, Duncan has no tricky moves. He has no McHale-like arsenal or Garnett-like athleticism. He doesn’t have range, he never muscled down anybody bigger than him (in fact, Shaq pushed him around quite a bit), and the few times he “took over a game” you’d have to be personally taking stats to notice. You add those things up and you’d never expect to get an offensive win shares which are 25th all-time and 9th among active players. He led the league in 2001 (only other top 10 finish was in 2002). Here are in my opinion, his best 10 regular season and best 5 playoff games.

10 Best Regular Season Games

’01 53-11-5

’00 42-11-5-4bl

’02 38-16-9-4bl

’99 33-20-3-3bl

’13 31-18-6-5bl

’03 36-20-7

’07 34-18-5

’13 22-21-1-6bl

’11 21-16-8-5bl

’09 21-27-6

Five Best Playoff Games

’05 41-15-6-4bl

’02 40-15-7

’02 32-20-6-7bl

’02 34-24-6-6bl

’01 34-25-4

This was pretty tough. I didn’t include his title-clinching games, partly because he had 4 of them and partly because none of them were all that impressive (not that Dirk’s was either). He had his one 50 point explosion and had several pretty dominant performances in the playoffs. However, if all you saw were Duncan’s and Dirk’s best 10 stacked up against each other it would be less of an argument. If you add the playoff games things get more interesting.

So, two things left to determine our winner. Who they played with and how they played against each other.

Who has Dirk played with? *on the title team

Each player listed finished in the top ten in minutes played for Dallas at least once during Dirk’s career.

Hall of Famers:

Steve Nash

Jason Kidd* (for 1 year)

Peja Stojakovic* (for part of 1 year)

Tim Hardaway (for 1 year)

Vince Carter


Jason Terry*

Shawn Marion*

Tyson Chandler*

Josh Howard

Michael Finley

Elton Brand

Danny Manning

Antoine Walker

Jerry Stackhouse


Devin Harris

Shawn Bradley

OJ Mayo

Nick VanExel

Cedric Ceballos

Raef LaFrentz

Avery Johnson

Antawn Jamison


Erik Dampier

Chris Kaman

Nick Collison

JJ Barea*

Caron Butler*

Eduardo Najera

Popeye Jones

Walt Williams

Marquis Daniels

Brandon Bass

Brendan Haywood*

Drew Gooden

DeShawn Stephenson*

Not a particular amazing list of ballplayers. The championship squad was pretty nice, I’ll admit, but in terms of support…Dirk has had 2 Hall of Famers for any length of time and one of those is named Vince Carter who didn’t join Dirk till well beyond the twilight of his career (and only the last two years at that). Terry and Marion have backdoor shots at Hall of Fame votes, the rest of these guys are either flash-in-the-pan stars (Barea, VanExel, JHoward) or strong career grinders (Stackhouse, Finley, LaFrentz). Obviously, each statement I make regarding these guys’ careers opens up another debate, however, bear with me. Let’s look at the Spurs.

Hall of Famers:

David Robinson**

Tony Parker***

Manu Ginobili***


Sean Elliot*

Michael Finley*

Steve Smith*

Bruce Bowen***(I’m curious what the HoF voters might say here)

Hedo Turkoglu

Robert Horry**(Another one with an outside chance)

Antonio McDyess

Stephen Jackson*


Avery Johnson*

Jaren Jackson*

Mario Elie*

Derek Anderson

Richard Jefferson

Danny Green

Boris Diaw

Devin Brown***


Malik Rose**

Rasho Nesterovic

Will Perdue*

Vinny Del-Negro

Steve Kerr**

Antonio Daniels*

Terry Porter

Danny Ferry*

Brent Barry**

Nazr Mohammed

Francisco Elson*

Fabricio Oberto*

Jacque Vaughn*

Matt Bonner*

Kurt Thomas

DeJuan Blair

Kawhi Leonard

Beno Udrih**

I think that’s a stronger list. Albeit only 3 other shoo-in HoFers but he played with each of them for several years. Bowen, Horry, McDyess, Steve Smith, and Stephen Jackson are as good a group of almost superstars as you’re going to find. However, it’s not like he played with Dwayne Wade or Kobe Bryant. The twin towers team with Robinson and Duncan, sidekicks Elliot and Elie, and the boss himself Avery Johnson, that was a team. The rest of his titles were the big 3 of Parker, Ginobili, and himself, a combo which should be included with Bird/McHale/Parish and Kareem/Magic/Worthy.

Conclusion – Duncan had better teams. It seems short, but this is already a book and that would require a movie and two sequels to finish up.

Finally, how did they match-up against each other? First the regular season:

03/4/98 Dirk 11-6 Duncan 26-12

03/27/98 Dirk 2-0 (13 min) Duncan 21-15

04/13/98 Dirk 12-13-4 Duncan 21-11

04/22/98 Dirk 8-5 Duncan 14-10-4

Year 1: Duncan dominated with a year under his belt against the rookie

11/20/99 Dirk 16-12 Duncan 14-17

12/14/99 Dirk 12-2 Duncan 29-12-4

03/16-00 Dirk 19-4 Duncan 10-2

03/21/00 Dirk 13-7 Duncan 26-12-5 (Mavs won)

Year 2: Duncan still in command, but Dirk catching up

11/10/00 Dirk 18-10 Duncan 11-14-4

02/13/01 Dirk 30-10 Duncan 28-15-6-6bl (Spurs won)

02-24-01 Dirk 16-9-4 Duncan 31-13

04-10-01 Dirk 20-7 Duncan 25-10-6

Year 3: One epic duel, and each with a pounding, Duncan still with the edge

12/26/01 Dirk 26-11-3-4st Duncan 53-11-4 (Mavs won in Duncan’s only 50 point game)

01/05/02 Dirk 28-14-4 Duncan 29-17-2

03/21/02 Dirk 29-14-4 Duncan 32-14-5

04/06/02 Dirk 26-21-3 Duncan 33-16-5

Year 4: One thing is for sure, they show up to face each other, Duncan’s greatest game is ruined by Dirk but otherwise, still seeing Duncan one-up his German counterpart.

Dirk missed the first meeting

02/20/03 Dirk 20-6 Duncan 11-6

03/20/03 Dirk 34-12-2 Duncan 25-18-4-4bl

Duncan missed the last meeting

Year 5: Dirk was boss this year, both teams losing when their superstar wasn’t present.

Duncan missed the first meeting

11/20/03 Dirk 26-6 Duncan 30-17-5-4bl (Mavs won)

02/26/04 Dirk 23-6-5 Duncan 22-17 (Spurs won)

Duncan missed the last meeting

Year 6: Duncan dealing with injuries has a big game spoiled but gets it back. Much more even competition.

11/24/04 Dirk 23-11 Duncan 27-13

11/30/04 Dirk 21-13-4 Duncan 20-13-2-5bl

01/14/05 Dirk 36-14 Duncan 25-6

Duncan missed their last meeting (Mavs won by 36)

Year 7: Dirk dominates once and matches him step-for-step the other 2. Without Duncan, the Spurs can’t handle Nowitzki as he drops 15 in just 21 min in the blowout.

11/05/05 Dirk 34-8 Duncan 18-12-5

01/12/06 Dirk 14-9-6 Duncan 13-14 (Spurs won…weird game)

03/02/06 Dirk 23-11 Duncan 15-6

04/07/06 Dirk 40-10 Duncan 13-9

Year 8: Dirk is in full swing, Duncan can’t hand him, and as we’ll see later the tide finally turns in the postseason as well.

11/02/06 Dirk 21-11 Duncan 13-10-4

11/24/06 Dirk 31-10 Duncan 29-6

01/05/07 Dirk 36-8 Duncan 18-7-4

04/15/07 Dirk 21-4 Duncan 16-7-6

Year 9: During Dirk’s MVP run, Duncan is all but out-classed, and if not for the series of Baron Davis’ life another epic postseason battle was on the horizon. Blast you, Baron Davis!

11/15/07 Dirk 17-8-5 Duncan 24-5

Duncan missed the 2nd meeting

02/28/08 Dirk 28-6 Duncan 31-15

03/23/08 Dirk 11-7-4 Duncan 19-13

Year 10: Duncan comes back with a vengeance and returns the previous year’s drumming. Chris Paul prevents another postseason duel between our heroes and then the infamous Robert Horry injury run…

11/04/08 Dirk 30-7 Duncan 19-15

12/09/08 Dirk 30-10 Duncan 32-14-4

Duncan misses the 3rd meeting (His 6th time being out versus Dirk’s 1 in the regular season)

03/04/09 Dirk 24-12-5 Duncan 19-12-5

Year 11: Pretty even with a slight advantage to Dirk and then a 1st round meeting in the playoffs.

Duncan missed the first meeting

11/18/09 Dirk 41-12 Duncan 22-14-6

01/08/10 Dirk 26-5 Duncan 31-12-5

Duncan missed the last meeting (8 misses now)

Year 12: Duncan continues nursing injuries and then dropping double-doubles but Dirk has the edge. Another first-round match-up with a little revenge in the postseason.

11/26/10 Dirk 26-8-5 Duncan 15-8-4

Dirk missed the 2nd

and 3rd meetings

03/18/11 Dirk 23-9 Duncan 22-8

Year 13: On his way to his title, Dirk maintained his recent regular-season dominance over Duncan, and even took a page out of his book missing two of their head-to-heads. Memphis’ shocker prevented a 3rd straight meeting between these two in the playoffs, what a pity.

01/05/12 Dirk 6-6 (in 23 min) Duncan 10-5 (Spurs win by 22)

01/29/12 Dirk 10-13 Duncan 12-6

03/17/12 Dirk 27-6-4 Duncan 17-4

03-23-12 Dirk 16-2 Duncan 15-12

Year 14: Both superstars look their age in these match-ups. Dirk gets the slight edge again, by my count that’s 9 out of the last 10 to Dirk. Both lose tough ones to Durant in the playoffs.

12/23/12 Dirk 8-6 Duncan 15-5-4

12/30/12 Dirk 8-5 Duncan 18-10

Duncan misses again

01/25/13 Dirk 21-11 Duncan 28-19

Year 15: Duncan experiences a renaissance, despite missing yet another match-up, and completely dominates the less-than-healthy and old-looking Dirk.

Ok, I have Dirk 9 Duncan 6. By games, its Dirk 25 Duncan 26, Dirk with 3 misses while Duncan missed 9.

Here are the playoffs. (If you weren’t bouncing down here you’re a stronger man than I.)

2001 Western Conference Semis (Spurs in 5)

05/05/01 Dirk 9-7 Duncan 31-13

05/07/01 Dirk 19-6 Duncan 25-22-6

05/09/01 Dirk 15-3 Duncan 18-14-3

05/12/01 Dirk 30-9 Duncan 29-18-5

05/14/01 Dirk 42-18-2-6st Duncan 32-20-3-5bl (Spurs won)

Dirk showed up but Duncan was too much.

2003 Western Conference Finals (Spurs in 6)

05/19/03 Dirk 38-15-2 Duncan 40-15-7 (Mavs won)

05/22/03 Dirk 23-10-2 Duncan 32-15-5

05/23/03 Dirk 15-9 Duncan 34-24-6-6bl

Dirk missed the last 3

Dirk’s injury ended the Mavs hopes (though they did steal one game after he went down)

2006 Western Conference Semis (Mavs in 7)

05/07/06 Dirk 20-14 Duncan 31-13-4

05/09/06 Dirk 21-9 Duncan 28-9-3-4bl

05/13/06 Dirk 27-15 Duncan 35-12

05/15/06 Dirk 28-9 Duncan 31-13-6

05/17/06 Dirk 31-10-4 Duncan 36-12-4

05/19/06 Dirk 26-21-5 Duncan 24-8

05/22/06 Dirk 37-15 Duncan 41-15-6 (Mavs won)

Epic. Both immortals running on all cylinders. Dirk was just a little better.

2009 Western Conference 1st Round (Mavs in 5)

04/18/09 Dirk 19-8 Duncan 27-9

04/20/09 Dirk 14-6 Duncan 13-11-5

04/23/09 Dirk 20-7 Duncan 4-2 (in 15 min)

04/25/09 Dirk 12-13 Duncan 25-10-7

04/28/09 Dirk 31-9 Duncan 30-8

Dirk makes the statement here, he is the master now.

2010 Western Conference 1st Round (Spurs in 6)

04/18/09 Dirk 31-7 Duncan 27-8

04/21/09 Dirk 26-10-4 Duncan 25-17

04/23/09 Dirk 35-7 Duncan 25-5-4

04/25/09 Dirk 17-11-4 Duncan 4-11 (Spurs won)

04/27/09 Dirk 15-9 Duncan 11-6 (Mavs won by 22)

04/29/09 Dirk 33-5-4 Duncan 17-10-5-3st-3bl

 Duncan comes back and is aided by a vanishing Josh Howard.

In playoff series, it’s Duncan 3 Dirk 2. In MVPs it’s Dirk 1 Duncan 0. In titles, it’s Duncan 5 Dirk 1. In names that start with D, it’s Duncan and Dirk 1 Me also 1. It’s as close as any comparison of so diametrically opposite players could possibly be. The fading, one-foot hang-in-the-air tongue-wagging 3-point-jacking white dude from Wurzburg versus the rock-solid, perfect-footwork, bank-shot drilling, bug-eyed staring, bounce pass throwing Virgin Islander. I am leaving off one argument point. It is accepted that Dirk Nowitzki is a power forward, that is he plays the 4th position in a classic basketball lineup. Duncan, on the other hand, is a power forward/center, meaning he plays both the 4th and the 5th spots. Karl Malone is of the opinion Duncan should not be included in the all-time power forward ranks. I am conceding this point because it is completely opinion and is impossible to suggest authoritatively one way or the other except to say the Spurs list him at PF so he kinda has to be.

So, in conclusion, I say DIRK NOWITZKI is a better basketball player than Tim Duncan. hands down. (and the 3rd greatest PF, if Larry is a SF which is a whole ‘nother ball of wax).

As much as I’m convinced Dirk is/was/will be better there is no right answer here. Absorb the data, go watch them play, make your own choice. And be ready to argue about it, cuz I’m ready.

Here’s a couple videos to dwell on as you make your choice:

Dirk – Game 2 2011 Finals, “With the left hand”

Dirk – BIG commercial

Duncan – Game 7 2013 Finals, “Mario Chalmers stopped Tim Duncan”

Duncan– Bill Simmons: Tim Duncan appreciation video


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