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ARLINGTON (AP) - NBA champion Dirk Nowitzki carried a basketball with him to the mound before throwing out the first pitch for the Texas Rangers.
With the crowd cheering wildly, Nowitzki showed off his stepback, one-legged jumper to send the ball in the direction of home plate. The MVP of the NBA finals for the Dallas Mavericks then pulled a baseball out of his pocket.
After walking to the back of the mound and kicking up some dirt, Nowitzki delivered with a high leg kick. The ball sailed over the plate, but so high that Texas Rangers standout and Los Angeles Lakers fan Michael Young had to jump out of his crouch and leap while fully extending his glove above his head to make the catch.
“I had a little more work in on the jumper, so I think it was a little more fluent,” Nowitzki said. “The only thing I wanted to do on the pitch was not keep it low. Everybody was making fun of me, I can’t do the John Wall, who obviously left it very low. I kept it a little high, but it was better than a bounce. … I thought that was my fastball. That’s all I had.”
A week earlier, Wall threw a first pitch before a Washington Nationals game that bounced about halfway to the plate.
Nowitzki was still wearing a splint on the middle finger on his left hand that he hurt in Game 1 of the NBA finals that the Mavericks won in six games against the Miami Heat.
His first pitch before the game against the New York Mets came a day before Nowitzki flew home to Germany. But he will have to go home without the NBA championship trophy.
“I don’t think (owner Mark) Cuban actually lets it out of his hand anymore,” Nowitzki said. “He’s been sleeping with it, he’s going everywhere with it.”
Nowitzki hasn’t decided if he will join German national team this summer to help its chances of qualifying for the 2012 Summer Olympics, though he knows he will have to make a decision soon.
“I think I’m going to do some vacation first, and get away from everything,” he said. “It’s been kind of nonstop obviously after we won it. It’s been hard to get some rest, so I’m going to do some vacation, let it go through my mind, and then we’ll kind of see how it goes with the lockout. That’s part of it.”
Nowitzki said there have been some exciting times celebrating since the Mavericks won their first championship June 5, calling the last few weeks the best time of his life. And he’s not ready yet to think about next season.
“Coach (Rick) Carlisle is such a freak, he texts us already, ‘Get some rest this summer, we’ve got to repeat,”‘ Nowitzki said. “I was like ‘We just won, can we like get at least two or three weeks to get away a little bit?’ He’s already fired up for next season. I think everybody else is still kind of in shock and is going to take a couple of weeks to sink in, and we’re going to enjoy this.”
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)