Dirk Nowitzki existed during an era with Kobe Bean Bryant, LeBron James, and the powerful Duncan-led Spurs dynasty. By all accounts, he wasn't supposed to win a title, not with so many all-time greats in his way.
In fact, according to Dirk himself, he was learning to accept his fate.
“For me, I was prepared to live with the fact that I wasn’t going to win a title. One of my big idols is Charles Barkley. I loved him — that’s why actually in Europe I had No. 14 because he wore No. 14 in the Olympics in Barcelona. And I never have looked at him lesser because he didn’t win a championship. He just happened to run into Michael Jordan all the time. Of course that’s always in the back of your mind, you’re thinking, “Man, what if? What if I would have done that?” But I’m just glad it worked out in Dallas. I really am. And I didn’t have to think about ever leaving this place.”
Obviously, winning a Championship isn't the only mark of a great career. There are plenty of great players who failed to capture a title -- including Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, and (of course) Charles Barkley.
Dirk was ready to put his name alongside those but, as we know, things would play out a different way.
Dirk and the Mavericks would win the 2011 Finals against the "Big Three" Heat in a rather shocking upset. Dirk would be crowned a champ, and his name would forever be etched in the history books.
So, the Mavs star went out a Champion. But it doesn't mean he was always expecting that to be the case.