The five Kenyan women were covered from head to toe as they stood in front of an African garb-wearing Dirk Nowitzki.
One was the love of the Dallas Mavericks forward’s life. The others were decoys who if incorrectly chosen, would cost the 13-time NBA All-Star a goat as punishment. The 7-foot German nailed tough shots in the NBA Finals and the Olympics, and on this occasion he did the same, correctly picking his bride Jessica Olsson.
“It was awesome,” Nowitzki told The Undefeated. “They took my wife away. They brought five or six girls out and they were all covered. So the first thing I had to do was find my wife. So I’m walking around and looking at how tall they are.
“I guess it’s one of the traditions. If you get it wrong, you got to pay the parents a goat or something. So I was lucky. I smelled her to find the right one. So, I got lucky there. But that was just an experience that I’ll never forget.”
Nowitzki is a worldwide known basketball name. He is the Mavs’ all-time leading scorer, the 2011 NBA Finals MVP, the 2007 NBA MVP and a two-time FIBA Europe Player of the Year. Basketball also introduced him to his wife.
The two met at a charity event for the Sports for Education and Economic Development (SEED) Project on a snowy night in February 2010. It was an NBA All-Star weekend in Dallas. The Senegal-based nonprofit uses basketball as a platform to engage youths in academic, athletic and leadership programs.
Nowitzki was tricked into raising his hand during an auction that resulted in him making a major donation in exchange for a Rolando Diaz painting. He also agreed to go on two dates for charity. But he was also hoping to get a real date with a beautiful woman he met that night named Jessica Olsson, who was working at a Dallas art gallery.
Jessica Nowitzki is the daughter of a Kenyan mother and Swedish father. Jessica was raised in Sweden with her younger twin brothers, Marcus and Martin, who are both professional soccer players in England and have also played for the Swedish National Team.
“What made her so special? What made me fall in love with her? First of all, she’s got to be attractive. That’s obviously part of it,” Nowitzki said with a big smile. “And I think we just clicked intellectually. She likes art, she likes sports. Her brothers both played soccer, they were professional.
“She grew up around sports. We both love tennis and we love to travel. We both love kids and family.”
Although race wasn’t a big deal to Nowitzki and Olsson, it became a topic when their relationship became public.
Nowitzki and Olsson made their first big public appearance on July 13, 2011, when they were on the red carpet at The ESPYS awards together. They received a lot of comments on Twitter when he kissed her after winning an award during the televised show. The Twitter chatter was not necessarily negative, but it was race-related.
Olsson asked that Nowitzki keep an open mind to the Kenyan wedding. To no surprise, the free-spirited, comical and fun-loving German relaxed, danced to African music and even had an encounter with a helpless goat.
“Her mom threw a wedding party and that’s where some of those photos came from where I had the outfit on with a hat on,” Nowitzki, who loves Kenyan stews and barbecue, said. “It was a special experience. I’ve never, obviously, been a part of anything like that, the dances, the whole experience, the tradition of a wedding down there.
“It’s different. You have to cut a goat. Lots of symbols, all the different things. They really threw us a really traditional Kenyan wedding.”
So what did Nowitzki — a multimillionaire certainly financially capable of providing for his wife — pay in dowry?
“We kind of faked things,” Nowitzki said. “They gave me a little Kenyan shillings and I paid them that. It was literally like a whole-day event. There were hundreds and hundreds of people there.”
The Nowitzki family has quickly grown, as they now have three children, a girl and two younger boys. The plan is for the Nowitzki children to spend time in Kenya and Germany yearly to learn their heritage. Olsson’s mother has died since the wedding, but there are still a lot of family members in Kenya whom the Nowitzkis want their kids to know.