Ever since Kobe’s retirement escapade through 29 arenas in the NBA, I had a running joke. I kept saying that Tim Duncan will retire and we won’t even know. He just won’t show up to practice one day. Someone will ask Pop about it and we’ll get a “I don’t know where he is, maybe Hawaii.” Every time I made the joke, I smiled faintly, but on the inside I was crying. Even joking about the NBA without ̶a̶r̶g̶u̶a̶b̶l̶y̶ the best power forward of all time was hard. Today is that day.
Career Average: 19 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.2 blocks
Career Accolades: ROY, Two-time MVP, five-time NBA Champion, three-time finals MVP, 15 time NBA All-Star, 15 all-NBA Team selection, 15 all-NBA Defensive Team selections.
If your resume reads anything like that, you deserve to have all metal in the city where you’ve worked over 19 years melted down and have it poured into a life-like statue of yourself erected. That is the truth. That is the stat-line of the best power forward to ever play the game and it’s not even close at this point.
In a way, this feels like the perfect exit. After watching Kobe Bryant grind his body into ash and spread it over the Staples Center in a 60-point display of megalomania, seeing Tim Duncan exit with a simple announcement is a story book ending. Just like he played his career, he did it on his own terms, in his own way. Without fanfare or a grand exit tour and just one word: “retirement.”
In many ways, Tim Duncan was the antithesis to the modern NBA, and even the NBA of his era. Dubbed The Big Fundamental Duncan’s main goal was perfection. His career highlight is perfect for when you want to casually doze off into sleep, full of unassuming shimmy’s, hooks, reposts and bank shots. There is something so fluid and perfect to each movement. No energy wasted. Everything he did on the court had a purpose and every one of his movements was mathematically precise. It was regular points over swag points, and it worked. Timmy always knew what had more value once the final buzzer rang.
His game was as simple as it was simply perfect. Every night, Tim Duncan went out on the court with one purpose — to win a basketball game. He was the premier team player, and he took on whatever role the Spurs needed him to fill. A straight A student who doesn’t need to brag about his grades, he just does the work. He was David Robinson’s prodigy in the Twin Towers era. He was the most unassuming superstar during a historical run of success the Spurs had under him and Pop. He was the 2nd and even 4th option in his later years when Kawhi Leonard came into his own. Most importantly, he understood the game and his place in it, fitting in where he could be most productive as opposed to trying to force his body and his mind to do something it couldn’t at the very end (see Bryant, Kobe).
In an era filled with larger than life personalities, there was also something special about Tim Duncan’s unassuming stare and apparent distaste for the public spotlight. From Iverson to Shaq, Jordan to LeBron, the NBA was a stand-off on and off the court. We wanted access to more than just the game, we wanted a slice of life of these stars and they competed for our attention constantly. We analyzed and dissected everything they gave us, Iverson’s cornrows, Shaq’s rap “career,” LeBron’s Twitter habits. Superstars were transcending the game.
Not Tim, Tim went out to play basketball and then he disappeared. He had one purpose. One thing to accomplish and he dedicated his life to it completely. He rewrote the game in the post and dominated for 19 years.
There will never be another Tim of house Duncan, First of his Name, Leader of the Spurs, God Among Men. He was unique in everything he did. His deep respect for the game and how it was supposed to be played. His measured demeanor on and off the court. His existence as “just another guy” while unassumingly capturing every accolade he could across three of NBA eras. Three! He stood out because of everything he did to blend in. But at the end of the day, he just played basketball. Fundamental, picture-perfect basketball. And that’s all we should remember him for. Farewell Tim.
Now I’m crying.