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Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center in 2018.A freakish athlete deserves a different kind of book, something that goes against the grain of regionality or idolatry or repetitious recounting of this big game or that. Thomas Pletzinger’s The Great Nowitzki, with its Fitzgeraldian title and novelistic prose, is the place to go if you’re interested in the connection between basketball and jazz, or the particular, earthbound skill set of the “old man game,” or the modern-art tastes of an all-time NBA great. Pletzinger brings a sense of curiosity and discovery to the story of his German countryman, the guy who came to the United States as a large, scared kid who spoke imperfect English and became a face of the league he grew up watching thousands of miles and an ocean away. Pletzinger…

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