DALLAS — It was the unlikeliest of performances from the likeliest of heroes.
It was emotional. It was beautiful. It was perfect.
It was Dirk Nowitzki's final home game with the Dallas Mavericks.
It was unforgettable.
"Thank you for all the memories," NBA legend Larry Bird told Nowitzki after the game. "God bless you, brother."
Before the retirement announcement, before the dunk, before scoring the first 10 points of the game, Nowitzki entered the American Airlines Center to a throng of Mavs employees greeting him with open arms.
Outside the American Airlines Center, fans hit the blue carpet for #DirkDay.
Inside, they roared as Nowitzki was introduced one final time in Dallas.
Once the game began, the arena transported back to 2007.
Nowitzki scored. He scored again. And again. And again.
Nowitzki scored the Mavericks' first 10 points of the game, as decibel levels climbed through the rafters and past the 2011 NBA Finals Championship banner.
Nowitzki kept his emotions in check until the second quarter, when the jumbotron played a tribute video highlighting his tireless behind-the-scenes work in the community.
Nowitzki caught fire again in the second quarter and went into halftime with 19 points.
At halftime, the Mavericks revealed the meaning behind each number in their 41.21.1 campaign.
The second half was highlighted by #41 throwing down a two-handed slam for his second dunk of the season.
"M-V-P" chants rang throughout the arena on multiple occasions, as did the "One More Year" chant.
After a few missed shot attempts in the final minute, Nowitzki corralled the ball and tossed it to the referee.
Mavs 120, Suns 109.
Nowitzki finished with 30 points — his highest total since March 20, 2016 — to become the oldest player in NBA history to score more than 30 points in a game.
The previous record-holder was Michael Jordan.
"You want him to have one of those nights...and he did," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "He scored 30 points tonight, which is amazing.”
(Overshadowed by Dirk's big night: 39-year-old Suns guard Jamal Crawford dropped 51 points, becoming the NBA's oldest player to score more than 50 points in a game.)
After the clock hit 00.0 and the hugs were given, thousands of fans stayed in the arena to witness one of the great tributes in NBA history.
Five NBA legends (and five of Nowitzki's idols) walked onto the hardwood to surprise Dirk: Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Shawn Kemp and Detlef Schrempf.
"It's been an honor and privilege to watch you," Barkley said. "Enjoy the rest of your life."
"You played the game the right way," added Pippen. "You've inspired people all over the world, not just Germany. You're one of the best. We appreciate you."
Then, it was Nowitzki's turn to speak from the heart.
After a year's worth of speculation, he confirmed his plan to retire and said this will be his final season.
“As you might expect, this was my last home game,” Dirk announced. “It’s been an amazing ride, thank you so much for coming out.”
“I’ll never be gone," Nowitzki said to the crowd. "This is my home, with my wife and kids. I left Germany 20 years ago and I became a Texan. See you soon."
Nowitzki exited the court the same way he entered — immersed in a sea of Mavs fans hoping this night would never come.
Alas, it did.
But, it was unforgettable to the very end.