Nowitzki cheered by thousands upon return home

German basketball star Dirk Nowitzki received a hero's welcome upon his return home to Würzburg, Bavaria on Tuesday. Dirk got the cheers, but one super-fan earned a seat of honour for helping to galvanize thousands to attend the lavish event.

Nowitzki cheered by thousands upon return home
Photo: DPA

“It’s all unbelievable,” the newly-minted NBA champion said Tuesday before 3,000 fans at Würzburg’s sold out s.Oliver Arena. “Everything happening here is absolutely overwhelming.”

The day would only get better for the 33-year-old.

After a press conference, he attended a ceremony at the Würzburg town hall to sign his name in the city’s “Golden Book“, likely marking the first time that an NBA player has autographed a volume also signed by Winston Churchill.

Nowitzki was then shuttled to the Würzburg Residence palace, where he took in a lavish reception held in his honour.

In an unusual twist, the fanfare of Nowitzki’s reception was enhanced through the efforts of an ordinary fan.

After watching Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks win the NBA finals, Markus Michler, a 28-year-old self-professed “sports freak“ from Würzburg, used social media to pay tribute to his favourite NBA player.

Michler started a Facebook group titled “Established for the reception of Dirk Nowitzki on the balcony of the Würzburg Residence“, which had the unexpected result of mobilising thousands to greet the star on his homecoming.

“We all watched the last game together in Würzburg and I got a sense of this incredible energy,“ Michler said.

“Then I thought that such a superstar can’t simply be greeted at the town hall and eventually be voted Würzburg’s athlete of the year,“ Michler added.

“This needed to be something special.“

Within a few hours after its formation, Michler’s group had over 9,500 members on Facebook. Then Silke Nowitzki, Dirk’s sister who organised his homecoming, got word of the group and decided to turn its mission into reality.

Several thousand adoring fans showed up to cheer Nowitzki, but Michler got perhaps the biggest prize of all: a seat at the reception as a guest of honour.

“This is like a dream,“ he said afterwards.

In lieu of winning an NBA ring, not a bad dream to make come true.

DPA/The Local/adn

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Spain thrown out of 2023 Rugby World Cup

Spain have been thrown out of the 2023 Rugby World Cup for fielding an ineligible South African-born player during the qualifying stages and will be replaced by Romania, World Rugby announced on Thursday.

Spain thrown out of 2023 Rugby World Cup

“Subject to Spain’s right of appeal, the 10-point deduction applied to the Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification table means that Romania will qualify as Europe 2 into Pool B replacing Spain,” read the statement.

Portugal — who Spain beat to seal their place in the global showpiece in France next year — replace Romania in the Final Qualification Tournament taking place in November 2022.

“Spain has a right of appeal within 14 days of the date of the full written decision of the committee,” read the statement.

According to Spanish media in March, the player under investigation was South African-born prop Gavin van den Berg, who has been playing in Spain since 2018.

He played twice against the Netherlands, in 2020 and 2021, in qualifiers, but he may not seemingly have served the three years of residency needed to become eligible under World Rugby rules.

Spain, Romania and Belgium were all sanctioned in 2018 for having fielded ineligible players, opening the way for Russia to qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.