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Mavs’ Dirk Nowitzki reacts on passing Wilt Chamberlain, says there were plenty of times he thought he wouldn’t be able to do it

Dirk Nowitzki, Mavs, Jason Kidd, Wilt Chamberlain

Athletes — even the best ones — live with doubts. Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks is still made of mortal flesh. He was candid in explaining his journey into history.

The 7-foot Nowitzki passed one of the foremost icons of basketball, Wilt Chamberlain, for sixth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list Monday night in Dallas during the Mavericks’ overtime loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. With a man named Michael Jordan over 800 points ahead of him in fifth place, Nowitzki knows that if this is indeed his final NBA season, he won’t rise higher.

Passing Wilt and becoming the second-highest scoring 7-footer of all time is a towering feat for Nowitzki, who expressed his uncertainties on the path to this emotional and resonant NBA moment.

“There were times where I thought I’m not going to make it,” Nowitzki said at the beginning of this 57-second audio clip from Dallas Morning News Mavericks beat writer Brad Townsend.

The injuries, the diminishment of an aging athlete’s body, and the stop-and-start quality of this season all weighed on Dirk Nowitzki. These familiar struggles for athletes in the twilight of a career are never easy to deal with. Great athletes who play for a very long time — as Nowitzki has — must ultimately come to terms with the reality of human limitations. That struggle was apparent in Dirk’s remarks and in other comments he made in this report from ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

The four men other than Michael Jordan who stand atop the list of the NBA’s all-time scorers: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1), Karl Malone (2), Kobe Bryant (3), and LeBron James (4). With Dirk passing Wilt for sixth place, Abdul-Jabbar is now the only 7-footer with more NBA points than the Mavericks’ German legend.

If you felt there was never a doubt that Dirk Nowitzki would arrive at this moment, listen to the man himself: He didn’t take this for granted.

Passing Wilt Chamberlain in the annals of NBA point-scoring history is something No. 41 never could have imagined when his pro career began many years ago.