NEW YORK — Dirk Nowitzki moved past Shaquille O’Neal into sixth place on the NBA’s career scoring list, then made the go-ahead basket with 19.2 seconds left in overtime to give the Dallas Mavericks a 119-118 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday.
Nowitzki will have plenty of time to think about what it means to pass O’Neal, a longtime rival who beat him in the 2006 NBA Finals. But on Wednesday, the most important thing for the German was getting a win.
"That’s what I play for, is to compete at the highest level for this franchise, for this team," Nowitzki said. "No. 6 in the bigger picture is a lot bigger than this win in Brooklyn in December, but when you’re out there you don’t think about that. You want to get this win bad and fight out there against a talented team."
Nowitzki came in needing 10 points to pass the 28,596 O’Neal scored in a career that could be capped with an induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame next year.
Nowitzki is sure to get there someday, too, whenever he ends a career that saw him redefine the power forward position.
"You’re talking about a guy who’s a generational great player. (He) totally redefined the game, redefined a position," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said.
Nowitzki moved ahead of O’Neal with one of his high-arching jumpers from the corner with 9:51 left in the second quarter, when just about everything the Mavs threw up went in.
Nowitzki is eighth on the combined NBA-ABA scoring list, behind No. 6 Julius Erving and No. 7 Moses Malone.