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Tim Duncan Hangs up His Spurs

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 6.40.15 PMWithout fanfare or drama, Tim Duncan quietly announced his retirement from the NBA on July 11, 2016. If someone told you they were shocked Duncan elected not to do a goodbye tour ala Kobe “The Black Mamba” Bryant then you can be certain of two things; first they didn’t know jack about the quiet, gentle giant, and secondly, they aren’t real NBA fans.  Everyone who has witnessed the unassuming fundamental way Duncan took the court knew it would end like this. We knew one day his locker would be empty and he’d be gone. The only surprise for me about his retirement announcement was that the Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich didn’t ask the press in his Everyone who has witnessed the unassuming fundamental way Duncan took the court knew it would end like this. We knew one day his locker would be empty and he’d be gone. The only surprise today was that the Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich didn’t ask the press in his characteristic sarcastic way,  “did you expect him to play forever?

There’s natural order to things and this is it.” The art of saying volumes without saying anything must be taught in Spurs Rookie camp.

In an uncharacteristic move for Pop, he talked about his 19-year journey with arguably the greatest power forward of all time.

"I would not be standing here if it wasn't for Tim Duncan. I'd be fat still trying to play basketball. But he's why I'm standing. He's made livings for hundreds of us, staff and coaches, over the years and never said a word, just came to work every day. Came early, stayed late, was there for every single person, from the top of the roster to the bottom of the roster, because that's who he was, in all those respects."

A couple times during the 15 minutes presser Popovich had to pause to collect himself, he'd bend his head in though chin grazing the black t-shirt he was wearing with Tim Duncan on it.

Popovich and Duncan won 5 championships with the Spurs together.  In his speech Pop discussed the promise he made to Duncan’s father to make sure he left the game the same way he came in: humble, respectful, and honorable. Pop and Timmie, as his coach affectionately calls him, did just that.

Duncan's impact on the NBA and the Spurs particularly is almost unfathomable. Duncan is one of only two players with Championships in 3 different decades. Duncan won championships with the Spurs in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2014. The last time the Spurs missed the playoffs was in 1997, back in the good old days when Duncan was playing for Wake Forest in NC.  Tim Duncan and the Spurs made the playoffs every season he suited up for them. Let’s put this in

The last time the Spurs missed the playoffs was in 1997, back in the good old days when Duncan was playing for Wake Forest in NC.  Need more perspective, the last time the Spurs missed the playoffs: Michael Jordan played with the flu, Ellen DeGeneres came out the closet, Internet Explorer was all the rage, Princess Diana, and Mother Teresa died, Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield's ear, and Howard Stern was just a radio DJ who had yet to shock anyone.  Duncan's game, his personality, and his loyalty to the team and the San Antonio fans are throwbacks to the NBA of yesteryear.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 5.47.02 PMHis career stats are astounding even more so when you realize he quietly retires with 5 rings. Duncan joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parish in the history books. They are the only players to win 1,000 games or more during their NBA career. Even though Kobe Bryant played a year longer and usually got more press he didn't break the 1,000 mark. Duncan is also one of only two players to win an NBA title in three different decades (John Salley). He's ranked 14th in points (26,496), sixth in rebounds (15,091) and fifth in blocks (3,020). He joins an elite club of four players who rank in the top 15 in all three statistical categories, joining Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O'Neal.

The NBA's slogan: Legends are made in June could be Tim's calling card. He ranks 2nd all-time in post-season wins with 157. He ranks sixth in points (5,172), third in rebounds (2,859) and first in double-doubles (164) in postseason history. Again it's mind blowing to think he amassed these numbers quietly, and methodically. He approached the game like a job. He went to work, he clocked in, he mastered the mundane. He wasn't flashy, he was never boastful, he was consistent, dependable, he was Mr. Fundamental.

Duncan won the Wooden Award, NBA Rookie of the Year, NBA MVP, NBA Finals MVP and NBA All-Star Game MVP. Duncan, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan are the only three in history to accomplish this sweep.

The Spurs won 1,072 regular-season games since drafting Duncan in 1997 season, 155 more than the closest team. Together Duncan and Popovich won all of the Spurs' NBA titles. Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili won 575 regular-season games together, the most by a trio in NBA history. Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili registered 126 career playoff wins together, also the most in NBA history by a trio.  Magic Johnson, Michael Cooper, and Abdul-Jabbar, who won 110 playoff games together hold down the number two spot.

It's certain the NBA will have more stars, some might even shine brighter than Mr. Fundamental. But few if any will have the impact on the fundamentals of the game, few will be as consistent. and looking into the horizon only 1 player seems ready to take on the cape of humility Duncan wore. Ironically it's Kawhi Leonard. There was a time when everyone wanted to be like Mike. NBA players can't wait for the comparisons to Jordan to begin, today's rookies live to fill Kobe's shoes or be compared to LeBron. Something tells me the highest compliment you could pay to Leonard is that he plays the game like Duncan did, quietly, impressive.

There was a time when everyone wanted to be like Mike. NBA players can't wait for the comparisons to Jordan to begin, today's rookies live to fill Kobe's shoes or be compared to LeBron. It's easy to imagine the highest compliment one could pay to Leonard is that he plays the game like Duncan did, quietly, impressive. Duncan is certain to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Hopefully, he'll say a few words at his induction ceremony, but don't be surprised if Gregg Popovich is standing at another podium 4 years from now slightly choked up thanking Timmie for all he's done. Thanks for the memories Duncan, thank you for your consistency, humble spirit, and showing a generation of children what true greatness and class looks like.

 

San Antonio Spurs. (2016, July 12). TIm Duncan A Career Retrospective. Retrieved July 12, 2016, from nba.com: http://www.nba.com/spurs/tim-duncan-career-retrospective/

Wright, M. C. (2016, July 12). Gregg Popovich bids emotional farewell to 'irreplaceable' Tim Duncan. Retrieved July 12, 2016, from espn.go.com: http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/17024283/spurs-gregg-popovich-bids-emotional-farewell-irreplaceable-tim-duncan