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It’s hard for slightly younger sports fans to understand stars like Steve Smith, Penny Hardaway or T-Mac. Sports is a cruel business, where even Hall of Fame players can be forgotten or lose their reputations, and T-Mac has been reduced to scrub minutes on the Miami Heat. (The NBA is like the afterlife, where you think a guy retired ten years ago and then you watch a game and spot him on the bench, but you’re not sure if anyone else can see him. Is that Kurt Thomas? Jesus!)

But before his back betrayed him, T-Mac was a PROBLEM.

Dirk Nowitzki was a one-man scoring machine, but he was pretty poor on defense for a long time. It’s like he and Steve Nash were cursed by a gypsy to only be effective on one side of the floor. And in the All-Star game T-Mac took advantage of his awful defensive awareness by doing a dunk that you shouldn’t be able to do to an All-Star caliber player.

It’s like a National Geographic vignette of a baby antelope grazing in the grass while he’s being stalked by a lioness, and at the last second the leopard produces a basketball and sails it behind the antelope’s head. While his innocent eyes track the ball, behind him looms the shadow of the predator… and by the time he knows what’s happening, its all over.

Dirk is a great player and seems to be a likeable guy. But my God, this is hard to watch.

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