Story and photos by Jan Osborn.
Dirk Nowitzki has achieved basketball greatness, sold out charity baseball games, and today, paid homage to his first love – tennis. Returning after a three-year break, the beloved NBA champ and Dallas Maverick favorite hosted the fifth-annual Dirk Nowitzki Pro Celebrity Tennis Classic on Sunday, Sept. 25, at the SMU Tennis Complex. The round-robin competition benefited The Dirk Nowitzki Foundation (DN Foundation), which awards grants to organizations supporting the wellbeing, health, and education of children.
Also, the DN Foundation is a founding partner of the Center Table Food Distribution Program with the Mark Cuban Foundation and the Mark Cuban Heroes Basketball Center. As a result of Center Table Food Giveaways, they have partnered with the North Texas Food Bank to provide 75,000 plus meals to families in Southern Dallas County and throughout North Texas since May 2020.
We recently had the opportunity to visit with Nowitzki and his wife, Jessica, to learn more about their nonprofit work in North Texas.
The NBA may have brought you to North Texas, but how long have you called Dallas home and what was the catalyst for getting involved in the nonprofit world?
I’ve been in Dallas for almost 25 years (since 1998), and while Germany is my native country, I am proud to call Dallas my home. The Dallas Mavericks have always had a strong philanthropic presence in the community […] they really encouraged the players to get involved, and it stuck with me. During my 21 seasons with the Mavs, it was the work we did with kids that really resonated and encouraged me to create my own foundation that would help our youth and the organizations that serve them so tirelessly.
When it comes to the Dallas community, the DN Foundation has stepped up in a big way to support the local workforce and nonprofits. How do your personal values inform how to prioritize giving through your foundation?
I’ve always enjoyed helping others. It is important to both Jessica and myself that we support where we can, whether families are affected by illness, poverty, abuse or neglect. Through the DN Foundation, we give our time to volunteer and provide grants to a variety of nonprofits that are in our most vulnerable areas in our city – from sports associations to education-based institutions to shelters and health- focused organizations.
From your point of view, what is the best way for the North Texas community to follow your example to support those who are at-risk due to health or economic factors?
Everything starts at home, instill good values to your children and ability to recognize need, help your neighbors and your neighborhoods. Anyone can get involved with community work and know you don’t always have to send in a monetary donation but your presence can be all that’s needed.
What are some of the ways you’ve been inspired by Mavericks leadership to create change in Dallas?
Mark (Cuban) has always been a great community leader as well as Steve (Nash) and Michael (Finley) who were both great professionals on and off the floor and were always connected with the community. They laid a foundation for me to adopt and strive to be more connected with the city outside of basketball.
How important has it been to collaborate with other nonprofits and foundations in order to see a larger impact in the Dallas community?
Dallas has such a help-your-neighbor philosophy and naturally the nonprofit community here is thriving. There are so many amazing organizations working tirelessly to improve the quality of life for all – so much of their work goes unnoticed but the impact is great. In these tough economic times, its especially important that we work with and support those organizations – many that are struggling themselves!
Jessica, you have said that you believe that every citizen has the responsibility of giving back to the community. How do you instill this in your children and the community around you?
We always respect and help each other at home and talk about the importance of giving back and supporting those in need. As our children grow and mature, if we are not passing items down, a few times a year we keep a donation box/boxes in the house, and they get to pick out toys/games they don’t play with anymore. Once they have gone through their toys (and I’ve sorted through clothes), we all drive to drop it off for donation so they realize it’s going to good use.
Also, we have a few herbal and flower beds that the kids have taken part of painting and planting in a food desert in South Dallas in partnership with the Heroes Foundation. Anytime I see an opportunity to bring the children to volunteer, I do. Being out in the community is the way to understand the need and be a better citizen.
Your family has a history of supporting nonprofits across North Texas. What are some of the other causes and organizations that are close to your heart?
Dirk – I have been a UNICEF Ambassador in Germany for almost 10 years and supported their programming both in Germany as well as in the US. Their mission with putting children first also aligns with our mission at the foundation. Our foundation in Germany mainly focuses on mentor and leadership programs for young leaders through our Campus 41.
How can the community come alongside the DN Foundation to support organizations that are helping in innovative ways?
You can donate to the foundation through the website at dnfoundation.org – no donation is too small! Follow us on Instagram @dnfoundation to see the different organizations we help throughout each year. Take time to volunteer, these organizations are always looking for help, so grab friends and family and give back with your time.
Returning after a three-year break, the fifth-annual Dirk Nowitzki Pro Celebrity Tennis Classic will return on Sunday, Sept. 25, benefiting The Dirk Nowitzki Foundation. Could you tell us how the proceeds will be awarded to organization recipients?
We are so excited to be back for the fifth year and it’s hard to believe it has been three years. The proceeds from the tennis tournament will go towards grant funding for 2023. These organizations focus on children’s wellbeing, health and education, and we try to help as many organizations as we can.
Can you tell us a few of the players who participated in the tournament and who won?
Some of the participants were Luka Doncic, Ben Stiller, Andy Roddick, Mark Knowles, John Isner, Boris Kodjoe, Steve Nash, J.J. Barea, and Luke Bambridge.
Steve Nash and his partner, Spencer Papa, defeated British tennis pro Luke Bambridge and his partner, Leo Antonio, to take the title.
The Dirk Nowitzki Foundation is dedicated to putting children first and assisting them through programs focusing on their wellbeing, health and education. To learn more, go to forty.one/us/foundation.