While the name Dirk Nowitzki might not mean a lot to many people over here, for our German and American pals, he’s a pretty big deal. Nowitzki is a German basketball player who this week announced his retirement from the sport after 21 years in the NBA, and having earned himself the accolade of being the league’s ‘highest-scoring European’. According to Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam, which has just created a book celebrating the player for Nike, Nowitzki is also “the first big man to shoot threes and the original stretch four”, though I have absolutely no idea what that means.
We’re assured, though, that he’s “in short, a legend”. Wieden + Kennedy was briefed by Nike to “celebrate Dirk’s legendary career as one of the most influential players on the NBA,” says the agency, and decided on doing so in the form of a book. For the format, Wieden + Kennedy looked to the centuries-old tradition of epic legends, writing a rhyming tale with large, colourful illustrations created by animation and design studio Wizz.
“We were telling the story as a legend, so it felt natural to make it rhyme,” says Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam copywriter Alex Bower. “It’s the way legends have been told forever. But instead of having a predictable ABAB rhyme scheme, we updated it so there were multiple rhymes in each line to give it a rhythm that felt more modern and lyrical, and therefore closer to today’s basketball culture. So it simultaneously made the piece feel timeless and rooted in modern day basketball.”
The illustrations are used as vast double-page spreads, and look to further underscore the volume’s appeal as an old-fashioned storybook. “It allowed us to make the legend feel suitably epic,” says Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam art director Jeff Lam. “It also gave us the freedom to really play up the ‘legendary’ territory and have Dirk arrive on a horse and be surrounded by massive, terrifying talking heads and hitting three pointers over a horde of rival fans and anything else we thought would look cool.”
The book was made in a limited-edition run of 41 copies (after the player’s number 41 jersey), with one given to Dirk himself. The others were given to “people that have played a role in his career,” says the agency, with the remaining copies available on the Nike app.
The book was also released in the format of a film narrated by Canadian former professional basketball player Steve Nash.
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam
ECDs: Eric Quennoy, Mark Bernath
Creative Directors: Evgeny Primachenko, Craig Williams
Creatives: Jeff Lam, Alex Bower
Head of Design: Joe Burrin
Designer: Steele Bonus
Production: Heart & Hustle
Director: Rashad Floyd