Nowitzki passed Pro Basketball Hall of Fame big man Wilt Chamberlain on the all-time points list with a trademark fade-away jumper in the first quarter. Nowitzki knocked down his first two shots in the opening frame to move past Chamberlain.
Nowitzki, the longtime franchise player of the Mavericks who is playing in his 21st and possibly final season, held the sixth position on the list before Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James passed him earlier this season. James also passed Chicago Bulls icon Michael Jordan this year, putting him at fourth on the NBA's scoring list.
Chamberlain scored 31,419 points in his career. Entering Monday's contest, Nowitzki needed four points to surpass Chamberlain.
The 40-year-old Nowitzki missed the first 26 games of this season while recovering from left ankle surgery. The 7-footer is averaging 6.0 points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.6 assists in 13.8 minutes per game this year.
The Mavericks led the Pelicans 72-66 midway through the third quarter. Nowitzki had eight points (3-of-4 shooting), two assists and one rebound in 11 minutes.