DALLAS _ Earlier this week a national sports analyst stated that no one should ever mention Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki in the same sentence with ex-Boston Celtics forward Larry Bird.
Mainly, the analyst thinking was because Bird was a better passer and rebounder, and because he has three NBA championship rings and Nowitzki doesn't have any, that's why Bird is the better player. Say what?
Bird is one of the best players to ever lace up a pair of sneakers in the NBA, so let's get that mundane piece of information out of the way right now. But so is Nowitzki.
But here's the hook. Including his rookie season and not counting his last two seasons, Bird played every season with at least three teammates who were inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame, except for the 1985-'86 and '86-87. During those two seasons, Bird had four Pro Basketball Hall of Fame inductees as teammates.
And he had two Hall of Famer as teammates during his final two seasons.
On the flip side, let's carefully sift through the carnage. As of now, Steve Nash probably will be the only future Pro Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Nowitzki can say was one of his teammates.
And that's a big fat "probably.''
In other words, if Bird and Nowitzki were able to switch sneakers, the championship rings would probably switch, too. Basketball is not tennis or golf. How many championship rings you're able to secure has a direct coorelation with how many Hall of Famers you played with.
Just ask Bill Russell. Or Magic Johnson. Or Bob Cousy. Or John Havlicek.
"Dirk is the greatest European to ever play,'' Mavs guard Jason Terry said. "Dirk played 13 years, Birdplayed 13 only, so (Nowitzki) still has time to create his legacy.''
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle played three seasons as a teammate of Bird's -- 1984-'87 -- and is in his third season coaching Nowitzki. Thus, he was asked after Friday's practice if Nowitzki deserved to be mentioned in the same sentence with Bird.
"Dirk is one of the all-time great players,'' Carlisle said. "In my opinion he's going to go down as one of the Top 10 players ever to play, along with Bird.''
Asked whether he thought Nowitzki would have as many championships rings as Bird if he had the luxury of having as many Hall of Famers as teammates as Bird, Carlisle basically dodged the question.
"I'm more concerned with our day-to-day, how we're conducting our business day-to-day,'' Carlisle said. "We're working on winning the title this year -- that's our goal.
"All that other stuff is just talk.''
Maybe, but when Nowitzki passed Bird this past Tuesday against Orlando to become the No. 25 all-time leading scorer in NBA history, that ruffled some feathers across the NBA landscape. Why, is anybody's guess.
"People can say whatever they want, but Dirk got to where he is with hard work and determination and a lot of effort,'' Mavs centerTyson Chandler said. "You can't take anything from anybody who has accomplished what he's accomplished.
"So anybody who says (Nowitzki doesn't belong in the same sentence with Bird) don't have much sense to me.''
"Obviously you know what Larry Bird did,'' he said. "He's one of the five greatest players to play the game, and he's got championships to show for it. Dirk's legacy is still going.
"You're always going to do comparisons, but they're two totally different players. But for the record, Dirk is the great European-born player ever.''
Chandler said, right or wrong, critics will always compare players until the end of time.
"But to me you can't ever take a player's accomplishments away,'' Chandler said. "What Dirk has accomplished, and now putting himself in the Top 25 scorers of all time, it needs to be recognized.
"People are always going to have debates. But (Nowitzki is) in the debate now. He's part of the elite.''
-- Dwain Price