Tim Duncan left the NBA in the same way he entered it: quietly. From 1997 until 2016, “The Big Fundamental” quietly dominated. He quietly made the 15-foot bank shot look like the easiest move in sports. He quietly won 5 NBA titles, 3 Finals MVPs, 2 league MVPs, and 15 all-star appearances. In a league full of loud-mouth, social media driven superstars, Tim Duncan quietly managed to become one of the greatest basketball players of all time.
I can vividly remember watching the San Antonio Spurs win the 2005 NBA Finals. As a 10 year old fair weather Miami Heat/Washington Wizards/Any-team-that-seemed-cool-at the-time fan, I was frustrated. This boring team from Texas was in the finals AGAIN. Every single year, it was the Spurs. They didn’t have Shaq, they didn’t have Kobe, and they didn’t have LeBron. Instead they had Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan. Their lineup was brutally unappealing, but as effective as any group in the basketball world. No fun slam dunks, no crazy alley-oops, and a supreme lack of athleticism. In other words, this was the perfect team for Duncan.
They won. A lot. From 1997 (the year Duncan was drafted) forward, San Antonio won 5 championships, 6 conference titles, and 12 division titles. They never missed the playoffs with Duncan on their roster. Over the span of that time the Spurs posted a regular season record of 1,072-438. That’s good enough for the best 19 year stretch in NBA history and is even tops across the four major U.S. sports. Not too shabby. And it’s all thanks to this guy:
Many people say Duncan’s wardrobe was his only flaw, but I’ll let you be the judge.
Over the course of his 19 years in the NBA, there was rarely a fuss, never much emotion, but always plenty of execution. Duncan was every coach’s dream. He’s not someone who would fill the headlines, but rather the stat sheet. He would never be a top story on SportsCenter until the end of the playoffs, where he was often seen hoisting the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. He fits the mold of a dorky old parent, but played the part of an NBA Legend.
So after 19 years of unbelievable accomplishments, Tim Duncan is finally saying goodbye to basketball. There was no Sports Illustrated article, no hour-long TV special, and no post on the Players’ Tribune. No press conference, no season-long goodbye, just a quiet exit from a quiet guy. Thanks for the 19 years of flawless fundamentals, Tim. You’ll be missed.
P.S. – Here are a few Duncan clips to help you appreciate the man behind the over-sized button down.