Dirk Nowitzki 24th to reach 22K points

Updated: February 3, 2011, 1:05 AM ET
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com

NEW YORK -- Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki passed Larry Bird and Gary Payton in December to ascend to 24th on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Wednesday night he added another career milestone at Madison Square Garden, becoming the 24th player in league history to reach 22,000 points.

Nowitzki entered the game against the New York Knicks with 21,987 points and hit the 22,000-point plateau with a pair of free throws in the final minute of the first half to give him 13 points. He finished with 29 points and 11 rebounds as the Mavericks won 113-97.

"It's cool he had a chance to do it here at the Garden because I know he loves playing here," Mavs owner Mark Cuban said prior to Wednesday's game. "It's a good deal for him and obviously it's just one more chance to show what a great player he is, just confirmation of how good he is."

Nowitzki, averaging 23.1 points, is closing in on Clyde Drexler, who ranks 23rd on the NBA all-time scoring list with 22,195 points. Nowitzki could possibly overtake Drexler before the All-Star Weekend. He likely would have already done it had he not missed a career-high nine games due to injury. Nowitzki sprained his right knee on Dec. 27. Wednesday was his 10th game back.

Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, who the Mavs will visit Friday, ranks 22nd on the all-time scoring list with 22,852 points.

Nowitzki's point total, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, ranks him fourth in league history among players born outside of the 50 states. The top five: Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946, born in Nigeria), Dominique Wilkins (26,668, France), Patrick Ewing (24,815, Jamaica), Nowitzki (22,016, West Germany) and Tim Duncan (21,294, Virgin Islands).

Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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