Farewell, Timmy D

Tim Duncan will leave an indelible mark on the NBA because of his dominance in the power forward position.  A quick glance over his statistics and accolades prove that he belongs in the top ten players of all time. 

·      5 NBA Championships

·      3 NBA Finals MVP’s

·      2 League MVP’s

·      15 All-Star Appearances

·      10 All-NBA Team Awards

Duncan ranks 14th all-time in scoring, 6th in rebounding, and 5th in shot blocking. 

What’s more astounding is that Duncan cranked out 19 NBA seasons and currently holds the 4th best ELO rating of any NBA player ever (An ELO rating measures the all-around skill/efficiency of a player, Duncan is right up there with Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and Hakeem Olajuwon). 

            Aside from the numbers, Duncan’s career holds a wonderful story and legacy.  Drafted in 1998, Duncan has spent his entire career with the San Antonio Spurs.  For almost two decades he has worn number 21 for the Spurs.  He has led his team through the twilight years with David Robinson, into the big -three era with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, and finally into the new big-three with Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol.  He is leaving the Spurs is superb condition.

            Tim Duncan was a superb basketball player, seeing him dunk a ball, or bank in a shot was to see a master perform his craft.  One of my favorite memories was in 2014 when he manhandled Serge Ibaka using old-man strength and pure skill.  Duncan was the perennial power forward, and I will miss his style of play on the court.  However, the reasons for which Duncan leaves such a void in the NBA actually have nothing to do with basketball.  They have to do with character and awareness and with doing things the right way.  They have to do with taking the high road time and time again.  Duncan’s game was defined by consistency, but so was his demeanor.

            Despite his immense drive to succeed, Timmy D was never one to talk trash, as Draymond Green recounted earlier this year.  In fact Duncan would often do the opposite, even giving opponents advice on how to improve their game.  Many commentators chock Duncan’s commendable demeanor up to his personality.  As if it were automatic or just how he was.  However, I believe that this kind of thinking robs Duncan of his greatest impact on the game, and on the lives of those who admired him.

            Basketball is a sport in which players often wear their emotions on their sleeves.  Any small bit of trash talk, a misplaced elbow, or a dirty glance can lead to a scuffle.  A recent example would be Draymond Green calling LeBron a “little bitch” and inciting a suspension-worthy altercation.  A more famous incident would be the “Malice in the Palace” where Ron Artest jumped into the stands and fought with fans.  Of course there are dozens of scraps in any given month in the NBA that are spawned from a lack of self-control.  Somehow, Tim Duncan rose above all of this.  Did his inherent personality help?  Sure it did.  But any player in any sport with comparable success to Duncan has a brutally competitive edge. Timmy D, with all of his composure, had a vein of sheer determination that drove him to be the best, to win more than any player of his era.

            This is where Duncan truly becomes great.  He chose to act the way he did, to lead the way he did.  Night after night Duncan performed like a superstar while neglecting the uglier side of the game, the uglier side of humanity.  While many would disagree with me, I would argue that on innumerable occasions Duncan probably wanted to retaliate to a trash-talker like Kevin Garnett, or add a taunting gesture after throttling an opponent. It is in human nature to add insult to injury because it feels good.  It grants a kind of instant gratification that is addicting.  For nineteen years, Tim Duncan blocked out the noise and just played great basketball. 

            When you consider the level of professionalism and respect for fellow players that Tim Duncan brought to the table he is truly second to none.  The reason I’ll miss Tim Duncan most is not because I wont get to see his pretty bank shot, or see him high-five the bench warmers at the end of the game, or watch his pre-game ritual of hugging the basketball with his arms raised high.  The reason I will miss Tim Duncan is because I won't be able to watch the man that I try, and fail, every day to live up to in my daily life. Tim Duncan applies to the real world in a way that includes a minuscule number of other athletes.  I fall prey to my emotions more than I would like to admit, but Duncan has proven that good nature and calmness can always prevail.  Over the years I have seen Tim Duncan play his hardest and lose on multiple occasions. Whatever the case he handled his situation with grace and humility.  He gives me, and everyone else an example to strive for.  His basketball legacy pales in comparison to his life legacy. 

Next year, when I tune in to watch the Spurs, I will miss my hero. 

Thank you Tim, for everything.  I wish you the very best in retirement. Go Spurs Go.