DALLAS -- For years, Dirk Nowitzki played the role of the reluctant role model.
The Dallas Mavericks' forward knew that because of his status as an NBA player, little kids, teenagers and grownups would look to him as a role model. It was something Nowitzki wasn't so sure of.
"I think for me at the beginning it was hard,'' said Nowitzki, who joined the Mavs from Germany in 1998. "I think there was a language barrier when I first here.
"It was uncomfortable speaking and I really saw myself more as a kid than a role model myself. When I came I was 20. I could have been sitting there with the kids at the camp, that’s how young I was, that’s how young I felt in my head.''
Still, Nowitzki navigated his way through the language barrier. His English got better, his game got better, and his popularity got even better.
Now, Nowitzki loves to exchange conversations with kids. He did a lot of that on Monday at the Mavs Summer Hoop Camp, which was held at the T. Boone Pickens YMCA.
It was almost as if Nowitzki was rehearsing for the life-changing event that'll take place probably sometimes next month when his wife gives birth to the couple's first child.
"I always said, off the court, one of the biggest dreams of mine is to have a family, have some kids running around,'' Nowitzki said. "I always thought I was great with kids.
"Obviously having your own is different. It’s a full-time job, but it's really exciting.''
It's an excitement Nowitzki said he's ready for.
"I timed it really well in the off-season,'' he said. "Obviously I'm not going to sleep much at the beginning, but at least that’s the summer.
"By the time, hopefully, the season rolls around I'll be able to get some sleep and have a little rhythm. I'm looking forward to having my own kid. That’ll be a great and hopefully wonderful experience.''
Much like the experience of talking to kids, which Nowitzki now fully enjoys.
"I enjoy being in the limelight a little more,'' Nowitzki said. "Back then I was really shy and now I embrace the role (of being a role model).
"Like I said I’ve been doing it for a long time and trying to help kids in the community for as long as I'm in the league. Now actually I really enjoy it. At the beginning it was a little uncomfortable for me.''
-- Dwain Price
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