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It’s fitting that the 2011 EuroBasket will be played in Lithuania for the first time since 1939. The only country in the world that its most popular sport is Basketball. The biggest star in this tournament will be Dirk Nowitzki, NBA Champions and Finals MVP with not even three months gone since winning with the Dallas Mavericks against the Miami Heat.

Seems like years and world away, doesn’t it?

Nowitzki isn’t new to international basketball. He skipped the 2009 tournament and the 2010 World championship, but before that he showed up every time. Maybe the prospects of giving his nation another chance to make the Olympics and of course the NBA lockout have brought him into national colors once again.

Germany aren’t the powerhouse they are in football – Basketball isn’t among the most popular sports in the nation, but when Nowitzki plays these things change. The man was the flag bearer for Germany in the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic games.

Germany open their tournament tonight against Israel, a game they should win. Israel’s only NBA player, Omri Casspi, won’t be playing, and the team is built on guards and forwards. Germany are taller, bigger, probably better as well, just because Nowitzki is on the court.

Nowitzki hasn’t gone wild in the warm up games, never scoring more than 16 points. That’s one of the special things about Nowitzki. One of the biggest stars in the NBA, maybe the greatest European player in history, but he doesn’t come to be the big star. He lets the game come to him, and come the fourth quarter, you know who’s going to get the ball and take the shots. And like in the NBA, the result, if it goes in or out, is totally up to him.