THE GREAT NOWITZKI – Basketball and the Meaning of Life

A journey into the mindset of a historic basketball superstar, and the importance of his landmark career.

The seven-foot Dirk Nowitzki is one of the greatest players in basketball history. The Dallas Maverick’s legend revolutionized the sport, redefining the role of the big man in the modern game. Dirk moved differently: flexible and fast, confident and in control. He thought differently, too. On the court, his shots were masterful—none more venerated than his signature one-legged flamingo fadeaway, a move that lives on in the repertoire of today’s most skilled NBA players.

How did this lanky kid from the German suburbs become an all-time top ten scorer and NBA champion? How can a superstar stay so humble? Award-winning novelist and sportswriter Thomas Pletzinger spent over seven years traveling with Nowitzki. He witnessed Dirk’s summer workouts, involving fingertip pushups and the study of the physics, and spent days discussing literature and philosophy with Holger Geschwindner, Dirk’s enigmatic mentor and coach. Watching Nowitzki in empty gyms and in packed arenas with 30,000 fans, Pletzinger began to understand how Dirk and Holger’s philosophical insights on performance, creativity, and freedom enabled his success and longevity.

The Great Nowitzki tells Dirk’s dramatic story like never before. Pletzinger describes Dirk’s youth in small-town Germany, follows the steep learning curve of Dirk’s early seasons, the devastating Finals loss to the Miami Heat, and the triumphant championship five years later. Traveling with Dirk in his final seasons, Pletzinger immerses himself in the community of people impacted by Nowitzki’s game, interviewing everyone from average fans in Dallas and security guards at the arena to front office executives and Hall of Fame teammates, who reflect on what Dirk’s career means to the next generation of ballplayers. And to the game itself.

A masterpiece of sports writing that reads like a novel, The Great Nowitzki brims with a fan’s passion. Pletzinger shows how strongly basketball influences our imagination and the extraordinary journey an icon like Dirk Nowitzki must take to reach the pinnacle of the game.


“All the hours in the gym, all the defeats and victories, all the stories and memories – it takes an author like Thomas Pletzinger to find the right words for my world and my game. I couldn’t have wished for a better one.” – Dirk Nowitzki

“Sure to be a slam dunk with hoops fans.” – Publishers Weekly

“Pletzinger brings a sense of curiosity and discovery to the story of his German countryman…. He gains his subject’s trust early and carries it through to the finish, after all the cheers have died out and Dirk Nowitzki assumes his full-time role as down-to-earth dude.” – Chris Vognar, Texas Monthly

“A meticulously observed, impassioned assessment of Nowitzki’s significance as a basketball player.” – Kirkus Review

“It’s a difficult task for most DFW sports fans to be able to properly communicate what Dirk really means to them. It feels so intensely personal to each and every one of us because of the indescribable specialness of this dude from Würzburg. But Thomas’ book does it with keen insight and beautiful care. Reading this is a joyously engrossing experience for any of us that have ever claimed the Big German to be ours. Simply wonderful.” – Jeff “Skin” Wade


Thomas Pletzinger was born in Münster, Germany, in 1975. He grew up in the industrial Ruhr region, got his M.A. in American Studies from the University of Hamburg and is a graduate of the German Literature Institute in Leipzig. Today, he lives with his family in Berlin and works as a writer and translator.

©Sammy Hart

His first novel “Funeral for Dog” was published in 2011. In 2019, his nonfiction book The Great Nowitzki spent 30 weeks on the SPIEGEL bestseller list – the American translation is published by W. W. Norton & Company and is in stores now.

Pletzinger has translated Gerald Stern’s Everything Is Burning, David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp, John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead, and Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? among others.

For the eight-part series Funeral for a Dog, based on his novel by the same name, Pletzinger co-wrote the teleplays with Hanno Hackfort and Bob Konrad. The series premiered on SKY on March 17, 2022.


For press inquiries, readings and appearances, please contact W. W. Norton. 

For rights and film inquiries, please contact Rowohlt Medienagentur.

For and all other mail, simply write an email to Thomas.