Jan 11, 2023 - News

How the Dirk statue stays upright: An Axios investigation

Dirk Nowitzki's legendary fadeaway is now cemented into Mavericks history. Photo: Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

The new Dirk Nowitzki statue, unveiled outside the American Airlines Center on Christmas Day, is one of the coolest sports statues ever — especially compared to some of the dismal tributes to athletes recently erected in other parts of the world.

The very big picture: The 24-foot, 9,000-pound sculpture, designed by artist Omri Amrany, depicts Dirk's signature one-leg fadeaway. And like the big German himself, the statue seems to defy gravity.

  • In fact, it tilts so much that it looks like it could topple at any moment.

Driving the news: We asked Fredrick Olness, an SMU physics professor, how that thing stays upright.

  • Of note: As an undergraduate, Olness was a member of the Duke University basketball pep band, which provided him ample opportunity to observe the physics principles of basketball.

How it works: A lot of the statue's weight is in the heavy base, which means the "center of mass" is also below where the statue's foot meets the base, Olness tells Axios.

Be smart: "The physics principle that keeps the statue standing is the same one often used by magicians to give the illusion of levitation," Olness says.

  • "A magician appears to float in mid-air with only a walking stick at their side. But the magician sits on a platform, and the apparently unremarkable walking stick at his side actually connects the magician to a large base that supports the magician and enables the illusion."

State of play: So how did the flesh-and-blood Dirk stay upright while shooting his legendary fadeaway?

  • Magic.

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