Most parties usually have a surprise guest.

NBA Summer of 2010, meet Dirk Nowitzki.

We've never seen anything like this before. As an NBA fan, it makes my head spin. As an NBA writer, it has made this the easiest summer ever to come up with article ideas.

Just when it seemed like this free agency super-bash couldn't get any bigger, the headliner superstars keep pouring into the party.

Nowitzki is simply the latest big name player to walk in the door. Where they'll call home when it's all said and done, remains the most intriguing question of the summer.

(I've already discussed seven of these big names here:

Dirk continues to be one of the most polarizing players when judging his career body of work.

Anyone who is even remotely familiar with the NBA knows this much: Dirk's skill set is impressively unique.

He's a superlative shooter in a large frame. He can play effectively at any range on the floor. And he puts up exceptional scoring and rebounding numbers.

He's passionate and competitive, an unselfish teammate, and he cares about winning.

At the same time, Dirk's limitations are pretty common knowledge by this point.

The main knocks against Nowitzki have little to do with the fact that he's an average defender. Rather, they are more cerebral and psychological.

I'll explain them this way. The first decade plus of Nowitzki’s career with the Mavericks has been eerily similar to the first half of Peyton Manning's career with the Indianapolis Colts.

Like the Colts from 1998-2005, the Mavericks struggled early in Nowitzki's career, but have ultimately won a ton of regular season games from 1998-2010.

Early exits and frequent collapses during the playoffs marred both franchises and overshadowed their consistent statistical dominance and regular season success.

More importantly, these playoff struggles have often (and somewhat unfairly?) branded Nowitzki, like early Peyton Manning, as soft, overrated, a head-case, and maybe even, a loser.

As with Manning, fans and detractors alike began to expect eye-popping numbers, capped with inevitable postseason failure.

Both players' leadership was routinely questioned, as was their ability to be the best player, capable of leading their talented teams to titles.

Of course, Manning rewrote his story in 2006 by winning a championship.

It doesn't matter now that he's 1-1 in Super Bowls. He'll likely never face all the career questioning and legacy doubting ever again.

Dirk is 0-1 in NBA Championships. There's only one way for him to become more than just the best European player ever, and the guy who made everyone forget about Detleff Schrempf, when it comes to Germans in the NBA.

Dirk knows what's at stake here. He has always seemed very, and some might even say painfully, self-aware when it comes to how is career is viewed.

Thus, Dirk seems willing to chase his championship aspirations wherever they lead, even if it is right out of Dallas.

Mavs fans have obviously been very upset over this apparent disloyalty. I have actually been impressed by this decision, once I really sat down to think about it.

Here's just more proof that Dirk wants to win. Maybe it's for his career, maybe it's for his legacy, and maybe he is just shifting the blame for his team's failures.

But either way, the guy wants to win more than just regular season games.

Watching Dirk in the final post-game press conference after the San Antonio ouster, I was struck with a sense of deja vu, and reminded of a similar career parallel.

I watched Kevin Garnett slog through his final season and a half in Minnesota with that same dejection, hopelessness, and backbreaking weariness that Dirk showed at the media table.

The look in their eyes was identical.

Just like Garnett's best chance at a title was dashed in 2007, Dirk's 2010 frustration at the organization has been replaced by self-doubt, legacy questioning, and the expectation that, if something bad can happen, from here on out it will.

Garnett was not going to win a championship in Minnesota. Dirk Nowitzki faces a similar crossroads this summer. In order to parallel Peyton Manning's later career arc, does Dirk have to make the same decision that Garnett did?

Here are the top three destinations for Dirk, if he decides to take his chances elsewhere.

Read the rest of the article here: