It’d been made known early on this past NBA season that this would be the last we’d see of the great Kobe Bryant. In classic Kobe fashion, his farewell tour didn’t disappoint, and wrapped up with a Hollywood scripted 60 points in his finale.
We’ve also had no clue when Tim Duncan’s time would be, but now know this past season was indeed his his last. Maybe in even more classic Duncan fashion, he just decided to call it quits a couple months after his season ended and we still haven’t heard a word out of his mouth.
Bryant and Duncan took completely different paths to reach the same results — five championships a piece.
Kobe’s had his celebration, though. It’s easy to forget Duncan’s equally deserving of the same type of farewell. So here’s a look back at some of “The Big Fundamental’s” greatest moments, biggest impacts and most underrated qualities that make him a legit all-timer….
Hard To Describe/AKA Boring
Duncan is hard to write about. He doesn’t have a huge personality. He doesn’t have a flashy style of play. He doesn’t play in a big market. And he doesn’t care about any of that. “The Big Fundamental” is by far the best nickname possible for TD.
Casual fans always saw Duncan’s lack of emotion as boring. It kinda was … but just don’t allow it to blind you from how freaking good he was.
Four Years In College
In the heart of the “prep-to-pro” era that featured KG, Kobe and T-Mac all enter the NBA out of high school and the beginning of “one-and-dones,” Duncan stayed at Wake Forest for all four years despite his obvious future in the league.
It was clear after his sophomore season Duncan was a star, and he likely would’ve been the top pick in the NBA draft in 1995, 1996 or 1997. Duncan was a standout student that delayed the NBA (and cost himself plenty of money) to complete a promise he made to his mother (who passed when he was a child) that he would receive his college degree.
There haven’t been many rookies to enter the NBA ready to play the way Duncan did. Aside from starting all 82 games and playing nearly 40 minutes per (who could ever do that today?), Duncan averaged 21 points and 12 boards while shooting a career best 54.9% from the field.
That’s right, a career best … in his rookie season. Of course, Duncan also led his team to a championship in just his second season — which just could never happen today.
Just look at the love on Twitter from former/current Spurs players, or just across the league in general. Everyone in the NBA community loves Tim Duncan. As fans, we love flashy. “Did you see how far Steph hit that 3-pointer from!?!” Or, “Did you see LeBron’s windmill jam?”
Duncan was none of those things, but always recognized as one of the best, not just as a player, but as a teammate. That matters.
From 1997 to 2016 Duncan was continuously adapting to be the player that the Spurs needed him to be. He entered the league as a member of the “Twin Towers” alongside David Robinson. It worked. He then sped up his game to play with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili while remaining the focus of the offense. It worked. He then relinquished the drivers seat to Parker and Ginobili. It worked.
Finally, he accepted being a role player to accommodate Kawhi Leonard (and eventually LaMarcus Aldridge). That worked. No other superstar has ever had the ability mentally or physically to do it that way.
Duncan’s always been funny in kind of a Bill Belichick kind of way. As in you don’t even realize he’s actually funny and not always serious. Nobody has more of a dry sense of humor than Timmy. From on the court to off the court, he’s always been able to joke with others and make fun of himself plenty too.
That’s part of what makes him such a great teammate. I mean, wearing the clothes he’s worn over the years just to give his teammates a laugh. What a guy.
If the promise he made to his mother and fulfilled isn’t enough to show how loyal Duncan is, there are countless examples throughout his NBA career. For starters, he played his entire 19-year career in San Antonio and took countless discounts along the way.
He changed his role within the organization numbers times. He supported the same coach each and every season. In the end it was the loyalty to that coach, Gregg Popovich, that made everything work.
Somehow Duncan may have been even more humble than he was loyal throughout his career. Nobody dominated without taking (or even wanting) any of the credit like he did. When the Spurs won, it was always a team game that his teammates and coaches got credit for, and when the Spurs lost it was because Duncan needed to do more.
That’s the way he wanted it.
Deserving 5X Champion
How Duncan won five titles in so many different ways, against so much elite competition really ties all of this together. As covered earlier, it’s because he was always adapting to be the best version of himself and bring out the best in his teammates. Duncan made it to many of his finals by getting past Shaq and Kobe.
Then when he was there beat a pair of LeBron-led teams (and probably should have been three). Duncan deserves his five rings as much as any player ever. He may even deserve more, but let’s not make him out to be an underachiever.
The bottom line is this. If there’s a 10-man all-time basketball roster being assembled. Tim Duncan is on it. No questions asked. He’d probably be the favorite teammate of the nine other guys, too.
Find me on Twitter @julianedlow
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is jedlow) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.