New Maverick Maxi Kleber recently dished on his rise to the NBA, reaction to signing his contract, and teaming up with the legendary Dirk Nowitzki in a Q&A with HoopsHype’s Jorge Sierra.
Kleber hails from Würzburg, where Nowitzki was also born and raised before making the leap to the NBA. At 25 years old, Kleber is now a bit older than Dirk was when he came across the pond, as injuries briefly derailed his rise to stardom. However, while playing for Bayern Munich last season he earned BBL All-Star, All-BBL Second Team and BBL Most Effective Player honors.
The new Maverick is young, but still old enough to have basketball memories that don’t involve Dirk. Kleber said it was his brother who got him interested in the sport, and he later heard about his hometown’s hero.
“I actually started playing because of my brother. I think he was eight and I was six back then,” Kleber said. “I watched him play all the time, he went with his friends and I couldn’t really play because I was too young. But when I was old enough I finally started. We always watched NBA and the NBA itself was kind of the reason why I very much got into this. The older we got the more we knew about basketball, and then we found out about Nowitzki, what he was doing. When I was eight, Nowitzki was already playing there and of course got pretty big after that.”
Kleber said he and Nowitzki contact each other every now and then, but this season will be their first time competing with one another at any level.
“We text each other once in a while but we don’t have really a close friendship just because of the fact we’ve never played together,” he said. “I wish I could have played with (Dirk) on the National Team but I never got to do that. I’m really happy that I can play with him in Dallas, I can learn so much from him now. But yeah, I’m from Würzburg, he’s from Würzburg, so it’s going to be special, there’s going to be a good friendship. He’s the king of the city and can really walk outside when he visits and he was my hero when I was young.”
You’ve got to understand that Nowitzki is Germany’s LeBron, Kobe, and Michael Jordan wrapped up all into one. There weren’t many Germans in the NBA before him, and there haven’t been many since. Kleber has joined that exclusive group, and he’ll be spending his first season in the Association with one of his country’s greatest sports stars, and easily its best basketball player ever.
Will Kleber be starstruck?
“No, once I step on the court I forget everything,” he joked. “I just think in a way that he can really help me a lot and teach me a lot. I’m not going to be asking for his autograph while we practice.”
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