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Olympic Legends - Dirk Nowitzki

BEIJING (Olympics) - Germany's Dirk Nowitzki made his one and only appearance at an Olympic Games in 2008.

An NBA superstar and league MVP in 2007, the versatile 2.13m Nowitzki fulfilled a lifelong dream of playing at the Summer Games by leading the national team to one of three places at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Athens, Germany.

The Germans took the last place on offer for Beijing with a 96-82 victory over Puerto Rico in Athens, Greece.

Nowitzki was brilliant in that game, scoring 32 points and corralling nine rebounds.

"Just a lot of pressure coming off after so many years of trying," Nowitzki said of what it felt like to at long last reach the Olympics.

"We didn't make it to Sydney (2000), we didn't make it to Athens (2004), this group put in so much hard work over the years.

"It's just an amazing feeling."

The experience became even sweeter for Nowitzki because Germany made him their flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony.

Upon being told of the honor, Nowitzki said: “I will experience something astonishing.

“I never thought I would be chosen to carry the flag but maybe it's happened because a lot of athletes identify with me."

Nowitzki tried to carry the team in the basketball tournament in Beijing.

He had 24 points and 17 rebounds in a crucial game against hosts China but the effort wasn't enough for the Germans as they fell, 59-55.

A controversial play late in the fourth quarter sealed Germany's fate and Nowitzki was right at the center of it.

The Dallas Mavericks superstar was driving in for a go-ahead lay-up and thought he was fouled but instead was called for a charge.

Yi Jianlian scored at the other end for a three-point China advantage.

With 18 seconds left, Nowitzki put up an attempt from the top of the key but the ball rimmed out and China rebounded before holding on for a narrow win.

The United States then beat Germany in their last Preliminary Round game to end their Olympic participation while China, thanks to the win over Germany, progressed to the last eight.

Nowitzki decided to stay away from the national team the following two summers but returned last year at the age of 33 and played at EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania.

In the expanded 24-team tournament, Germany came up short of the Quarter-Finals and saw their hopes of playing at the London Games disappear.

Nowitzki's fame has not faded, though, because of that setback.

If anything, his legend has grown the past several months.

Last season in the NBA, he led the Mavericks to their first championship and Nowitzki was named Finals MVP.

In February, Nowitzki was named 2011 FIBA Europe Player of the Year.