The Myth that the Bucks traded Nowitzki
Bald face lies are easy to refute. Distortions of the truth are not. Thus, for self serving reasons, many in the media continue to perpetuate certain myths that either resemble the truth or play into our preexisting beliefs, such as the myth that spousal violence increases on Super Bowl Sunday, the myth that someone asked Doug Williams "How long have you been a black quarterback?", and on and on and on. Its pure journalistic laziness.
One disturbing sports myth that has clung to the Milwaukee Bucks like superglue is the myth that they traded F Dirk Nowitzki for Robert "Tractor" Traylor. The Bucks are guilty of having the stupidity to move up in order to secure the rights to Traylor, but the rights to Nowitzki were never actually there's to trade. Yet the myth gets retold and retold and retold until it becomes almost gospel truth. Well, it's not. Its a lie.
But like any good lie, it appears, at first glance, to be true. To the lazy observer, it may even seem true. But in form, function, and fact, it is a complete canard.
HERE IS THE TRUTH: The Bucks never held the rights to F Dirk Nowitzki as their own, nor did they ever have any opportunity to obtain said rights to Nowitzki as their own. The only reason Nowitzki was available when the Bucks drafted at No. 9 was because the Bucks had previously promised Don Nelson that if Nowitzki was available they would draft him for the Dallas Mavericks. They made that promsie because they wanted Robert Traylor and were afraid they wouldn't be able to get him if they waited until No. 9. So promises were made. Had they not been made, the Mavericks would have selected Nowitzki at No. 6.
What the Bucks traded to the Dallas Mavericks were, essentially, proxy rights to the No. 9 and No. 19 selections -- not Nowitzki. Nelson could have told them to draft Fred Flinstone and Barney Rubble in those two spots, it made no difference to the Bucks. All they cared about was securing Traylor with the No. 6 pick.
Nelson, on the other hand, wanted Nowitzki, not Traylor. The only reason he was willing to draft Traylor is because the Bucks were willing to take Nowitzki for him at No. 9 and a player named Pat Garrity at No. 19. Had Nelson been unable to secure those proxy picks from the Bucks, he would have simply forgotten about Garrity and just went ahead and selected Nowitizki at No. 6. AT NO TIME DID NELSON EVER INTEND TO SELECT TRAYLOR FOR THE MAVERICKS.
So, the Mavericks agreed to select Traylor with the sixth pick only because they knew they were trading him to the Bucks. It was a gamble on Nelson's part. He was risking losing Nowitzki to either the No. 7 pick or the No. 8 pick. AT NO TIME, HOWEVER, WAS HE IN DANGER OF LOSING NOWITZKI TO THE BUCKS. The only slots Nelson was gambling on were the 7 and 8 slots. He felt it was a reasonable risk to take to get an additional pick from the Bucks at 19.
The bottom line then is even if the Bucks coveted Nowitzki (and there is no evidence that they did), they had no chance whatsoever to obtain his draft rights outright for themselves.
Here's how it all went down on draft night (in a nutshell): Prior to chosing Traylor, Nelson called Bucks GM Bob Weinhauer and locked him into selecting Nowitzki at No. 9 and Garrity at No. 19. Only then did Nelson take Traylor at No. 6 for the Bucks. The deal was submitted to the league; the Bucks could not renege. Had the Bucks not made that promise, Nowitzki would have been a Dallas Maverick with the sixth pick. "It was prearranged," Mavericks coach and general manager Don Nelson has said. "We wouldn't have done the deal unless (the Bucks) picked the right players we wanted." Now you know the true story.
So next time you hear or read ignorant sportscasters or sportswriters lampoon the Bucks foolishness for trading Nowitzki, or speculate on what the Bucks line-up might be like with Nowitzki, or act as though Nowitzki was traded straight up for Traylor, you will know that you are being spoonfed one of the NBA's most enduring urban legends. Someday the truth will set us free. Until then there's Milwaukee Bucks Diary.