March 31, 2011: Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant screens Dallas Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki during a game against the Dallas Mavericks during a game 110-82 decision Thursday at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Matt A. Brown/Icon Sportswire)

Dirk Nowitzki is already the best European player ever to play in the NBA, and the 38-year-old center is getting closer and closer to retirement. He signed a two-year, $50 million contract earlier this summer with a player option for the second year and is going to take a year-by-year approach in the latter parts of his career.

During an interview on the Behind the Baseline podcast, Dirk Nowitzki was asked about retirement, and if he’d want to go out like Kobe Bryant or Tim Duncan (h/t to the Dallas Morning News for the transcription):

You know, I loved the way Kobe went out … with a 60-point game? That’s so Kobe like. The whole arena was standing up the whole fourth quarter. So much fun to watch. But I’m more like a Duncan guy. More a quiet guy. I don’t need the limelight as much. Maybe not quite the just e-mail, Hey, by the way Tim Duncan is retiring. I thought that was a little low profile. Maybe there’s a little press conference or something. I don’t know, I don’t really want to think about it because I know it’s gonna come up soon anyway. I’m just gonna enjoy the last couple of years.

Dirk has gone the length of his career without being a bombastic, demonstrative superstar like Bryant was. And while he’s not exactly as soft-spoken as Duncan, he leans more toward him on the scale.

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While Duncan and Kobe had left their mark on the game by winning ten combined championships and singlehandedly dominating the early-to-mid 2000s, Nowitzki has done just as much for the globalization of basketball. All the success he’s had-an MVP, a championship-makes him the unfair-at-times benchmark for all European players. Whenever someone a foreign-born center or forward comes into the league, there are only two options: he’s either going to be Dirk or Darko Milicic.

Over the past three seasons-at ages 35, 36, and 37-Dirk has averaged 19.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and shot 46.9 percent from the field, making him one of four players with those numbers at 35 or older, according to Basketball-Reference.

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Nowitzki has done a great job of staying healthy over the last few years despite getting older, and he has the possibility to play until he’s forty since Dallas brought on Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut to provide help to Nowitzki on both sides of the ball.

Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference

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