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#41 Forever: With his wife and kids by his side, Dirk Nowitzki joins exclusive club of Dallas Mavericks legends

A night filled with emotion, jokes and a statue reveal.

DALLAS — Dirk Nowitzki wanted the number 14.

When the seven-footer from Würzburg, Germany was drafted ninth overall by the Dallas Mavericks in 1998, he hoped to wear the #14 jersey in honor of Charles Barkley -- one of his favorite players at the time.

Barkley wore #14 for the iconic 1992 United States Dream Team.

Dirk never got the chance in Dallas.

Former Maverick Robert Pack had #14 at the time and refused to give it up to a rookie.

So, Dirk flipped the digits to #41.

And flipped the NBA on its head.

"Dirk changed the game, man," asserted fellow Mavericks legend Derek Harper, whose #12 jersey was retired in 2018. "He reinvented the game -- of [big men] shooting threes. A lot of people eating and buying houses now off of Dirk Nowitzki. No question about it."

Nowitzki ushered in a new era and brand of game, while also inspiring a generation of Europeans to pick up a basketball and paving a path for them to make the NBA.

#41 -- a prime number for a primetime player.

"Thank you guys from the bottom of my heart for making this journey incredible. Thank you for taking in a long, lanky kid over 20 years ago and making him one of your own," Nowitzki said.

His 21 seasons with Dallas were highlighted by trophies: the 2007 MVP Award and the 2011 NBA Finals MVP, after delivering the Mavericks their first and only world championship to date.

The hardware shined bright at the arena on Wednesday night for MFFL's to see.

The Mavericks home game with the Golden State Warriors was simply the opener for the night's headliner: Dirk Nowitzki's jersey retirement.

Tens of thousands packed the American Airlines Center including Dallas Cowboys receivers Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. Next to them was Highland Park native and future baseball Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw.

The celebs were in the house for one of the most memorable nights in franchise history.

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"With all due respect to fans and the general public, I don't think they understand the work that it takes to be great," Harper admitted. "That's what it's all about. That's what you are being honored for. The sacrifice that it takes and the sacrifice that you make."

Nowitzki became the fourth Maverick to have his number embroidered and hoisted into the rafters of the AAC -- joining Harper, Rolando Blackman (#22) and Brad Davis (#15).

"I can tell you it's just a wonderful wonderful feeling," said Blackman, whose jersey was retired in 2011. "Not only for yourself for the feeling of pride. But the feeling for your family. You feel great for the people who helped you all the way throughout. I, like Dirk, had people who helped me throughout to be able to get there."

As the players left the court following a 99-82 Mavericks win, friends and family took center stage.

Dirk's longtime German mentor, coach and guru Holger Geschwindner had a front row seat.

As did some of Dirk's former Mavs teammates Ian Mahinmi, J.J. Barea, Brian Cardinal, Caron Butler, Peja Stojaković, Tyson Chandler and now-head coach Jason Kidd.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver opened up the ceremonies before passing the microphone to Kidd who joked, asking Dirk if he wanted to sign a 10-day contract since the Mavs are down some guys.

As tribute videos peppered the festivities, the mic landed in the hands of Mavs owner and Dirk's longtime pal Mark Cuban.

Cuban provided the reveal of the night when he pulled a cloth off like a magician to display a prototype of the Dirk statue that will be erected in due time.

Then it was Dirk's moment with the crowd, which was quintessential Dirk -- heartfelt and playful.

He closed with one last thank you to everyone, as his wife Jessica, daughter Malaika and two sons, Max and Morris, joined him at center court.

They all pressed the button as his #41 banner raised into the air, as if it was a fadeaway jumper from the elbow.

The family man has been retired from the game for nearly three years. His place in the Basketball Hall of Fame awaits in just a couple more.

It was a stirring tribute as the 18-year-old German turned 43-year-old Dallasite took his rightful place in rarified air.

41 is a prime number.

Now, it's in prime position.

Forever.