Drafted in 1998, Dirk Nowitzki turned out to be one of the best power forwards the league has ever seen. Even at a young age, the sharpshooting big man was already garnering the attention of basketball savants in the USA. Just ask Charles Barkley. Once during Nowitzki's younger years, he played with the German team in an exhibition game against NBA players, Barkley included. The German forward's performance drew interest from Sir Charles. In fact, he drew so much interest that Barkley himself tried to get Nowitzki to play for Auburn basketball.

“I met Dirk Nowitzki and tried to pay him to come to Auburn,” Barkley said, in an episode of The Pat McAfee Show. “We played an exhibition in Germany, and I’ve got Scottie Pippen, who is a great defender. I’ve got Horace Grant, (and) a couple of other NBA players, and we played this German team. Dirk’s got like 35 at halftime. And at this time Scottie was considered a great defender. This dude finished with like 52 points” (per On3's Matt Connolly)

To Barkley's dismay, Nowitzki had mandatory military service to prioritize.

“I said, ‘Yo man, who are you?' He said, ‘My name is Dirk Nowitzki.' I said, ‘Do you wanna go to Auburn? I’ll take care of that.' He says, ‘I gotta go in the Army.' I said, ‘Dude, you're 7 feet tall. You’re not going in the damn Army.'”

Presently, Auburn is still in search of a first-ever National Championship. It makes one wonder if NCAA basketball history would have been rewritten with Dirk suiting up for the Tigers. Nevertheless, it didn't happen, as Dirk continued on with German club DJK Wurzburg before heading to the NBA.

Dirk Nowitzki's legacy

Dirk Nowitzki gives his speech as he is inducted into the 2023 Basketball Hall of Fame at Symphony Hall
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

What Barkley saw in a young Nowitzki was no fluke though. As seen in the 2000s and early in the century's second decade, the power forward had quite an illustrious career. An NBA Championship, a Regular Season MVP, a Finals MVP and 14 All-Star appearances were just some of the recognitions given to the seven-footer. Nowitzki's achievements all culminated in a Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Induction this past 2023.

The Dallas Mavericks won their first-ever franchise title with Nowitzki, and it was mainly due to the forward's shooting ability. Back in the day, bigs who fired away from deep weren't that common and most of the taller players made a living in the post. Coming into the league, Nowitzki was arguably a pioneer of what is now known as a stretch big man.

Of course, who can forget about his patented fadeaway? Once Nowitzki catches the ball in the post, there's not so much that defenders can do when he decides to back down and turn around for that mid-ranger.

Inspiring many generations after him, Dirk Nowitzki will always be an icon to players and fans alike.