Monday, July 11, 2016

Farewell Tim Duncan

In his typical modest fashion, future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan announced his retirement today after 19 seasons in the NBA.

I'm not one to rank players historically.  There are too many variables to accurately assess what defines greatness across different generations.  That said, Tim Duncan walks away from the game as one of the greatest - if not the greatest - power forward in the history of the NBA.

Duncan's resume speaks for itself.

Start with his five championships with the Spurs.  His first title in 1999 came his second NBA season when he was a 22-year-old playing alongside David Robinson and his last title came in 2014 when he was the mentor to players like Kawhi Leonard.

Duncan was also a two-time MVP (2002 and 2003), three-time Finals MVP (1999, 2003, and 2005), the 1998 Rookie of the Year, 2000 All-Star Game MVP, a fifteen-time All-Star, made fifteen appearances on the All-NBA team, and made fifteen appearances on the NBA All-Defensive team.

There are more highlights from Duncan's professional and college career but in the spirit of humbleness exhibited throughout the career of the first pick in the 1997 draft, I won't list all of them.

As a Celtics fan, I have watched Duncan's dominance with a twinge of jealousy.  The 1996 Celtics tanked in a way that would make the current 76ers proud in an effort to land the big man from Wake Forest but even with the highest chances of winning that year's draft lottery, the C's lost out on his services to the Spurs.  It was the perfect fit as Duncan cherished his privacy and that was allowed to him in San Antonio.  San Antonio also paired Duncan with one of the all-time great NBA coaches in Gregg Popovich as well as several other teammates that valued winning over individual accolades like Robinson, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Robert Horry, and Leonard.  While Duncan would have been a Hall of Fame player in any uniform, coming to Boston and playing for Rick Pitino likely would have led to less championships for Duncan as well as a likely early exit from Boston.

The NBA is losing Duncan at the same time that Kobe Bryant walks away from the game and while Kobe embraced the season-long celebration of his career and Duncan went quietly in early July, both players left their marks on this great game and both will be impossible to replace.

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