Before the Dallas Mavericks took on the Los Angeles Clippers last week, ESPN ran a taped interview with Mavs mainstay Dirk Nowitzki. In it, the 18-year veteran from Germany reminisced about how he used to make fun of former teammate Jason Kidd, the point guard who played for Dallas from 2008 to 2012. When he teamed up with Nowitzki, Kidd was in the twilight of his 19-year career, and he turned 39 in his final year in Dallas. Nowitzki remembers walking past Kidd in the midst of an hour-long massage in the training room before games and laughing at him, calling him an old man.
Fast forward to the 2015-2016 NBA season. Nowitzki is now in the same position as Kidd was then. To ensure his 37-year-old body can withstand another season, Nowitzki takes precautions he never had to think about earlier in his career, including pre-game massages (though Nowitzki prefers the half-hour version) and getting hooked up to an electric stimulator.
Mavericks athletic performance director Jeremy Holsopple places patches connected to wires over various muscles on Nowitzki’s body. Electric current is run through the wires, forcing Nowitski’s muscles to contract every 20 seconds. It does not sound pleasant.
“It feels like you’re getting the worst cramp possible,” Holsopple told ESPN.
Holsopple makes Nowitzki endure those “cramps” to stimulate his fast-twitch muscles while avoiding putting excessive stress on his joints, which have taken a pounding over his long NBA career. Nowitzki also performs long sessions of stretching before games to increase range of motion in his ankles, knees and hips.
During practice, the 13-time All-Star is outfitted with an electronic device that allows Holsopple and the Mavericks training staff to determine how he should recover in preparation for the following day, depending on how hard he worked in practice.
The interview provides a fascinating look at the level of preparation and technology that goes into ensuring a player who has logged over 50,000 minutes of pro basketball remains in peak physical condition. And it has clearly paid off. Nowitzki is averaging 18.9 points per game on 55 percent shooting through eight games this season, showing that he can still play at a high level.