After a 19 year career where he became a constant presence in the playoffs, Tim Duncan announced his retirement. Duncan retires as a 5 time NBA champion, 2 time MVP, 3 time Finals MVP, and 15 time all-star. He also retires as the best power forward to ever play the game of basketball. Most of all, he retires as the greatest San Antonio Spur in franchise history.
Duncan was drafted first overall by the Spurs in 1997 after a horrid season in ’96. Duncan made an immediate impact as the Spurs made the playoffs, winning 56 games. In his rookie year, Tim averaged 21.1 points a game, 11.9 rebounds a game, 2.7 assists per game, and 2.5 blocks a game. He played and started all 82 games. He also averaged the most minutes per game at 39.1 minutes. Duncan won rookie of the year and made the NBA All-Defensive second team.
Duncan’s rookie season was a preview of the great career he’d have. He impressed legends and even beat them at their own game during that season. Duncan grabbed 22 rebounds against multiple time rebounding champion Dennis Rodman. After he faced Hall-of-Fame forward Charles Barkley, Barkley was so impressed by Duncan he said “I’ve seen the future and he wears number 21.” Duncan has continued to impress and earn high praise.
Tim Duncan almost single-handedly made the Spurs a power house. Though he was never flashy, he was possibly the best on the court when he was playing. Basketball enthusiasts saw a more beautiful game from Duncan than from flashy performances by others. His footwork was impeccable, his defensive positioning and angling was so tactically smart, his use of the glass, classic bank shot, and his ability to lead all made Tim the player he was.
Duncan repeated as MVP in 2002 and 2003, during which Tim and the Spurs won their second title during Duncan’s tenure. It was a good send off for another San Antonio great, The Admiral, David Robinson. The first title for the Spurs came in 1999, Duncan’s third year in the NBA. Usually when the man who was your franchise player for years retires, you’re in a hole. That wasn’t the case for the Spurs after Robinson retired as they had drafted a new franchise player in 1997. The Spurs barely missed a beat, losing in the Western Conference finals because of a miraculous Derek Fisher shot, and one year later in 2005, the Spurs won the NBA Championship again, knocking off the Detroit Pistons. Duncan won his third and final Finals MVP award that year. Another two year wait for a title ended when Duncan and the Spurs swept Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Spurs had some lean years, for them. After 2007, they remained a contender but couldn’t make it back to the finals. They came close in 2008 but lost to the Lakers in the conference finals in 5. The following season they couldn’t get past the first round. Following the first round exit was a sweep by the Suns in the second round, instantly followed by one of the worst upsets of all time as the Spurs won 61 games, enough for first in the conference only to lose to the 8th seeded Grizzlies. Duncan’s numbers stayed elite for the start of that stretch. But in 2010, Tim was posting career lows and not looking as spry on defense as he was before, knee injury was limiting him at 34 years of age. Many wondered if it was time to retire, the Spurs dynasty seemed to be done and Tim had no need to continue to play in their eyes.
Then there resurgence happened, the resurgence of both the franchise and Tim Duncan. The Spurs redesigned their system on both offense and defense as well a small adding of new blood in Kawhi Leonard. In the 2011/12 season, the Spurs made the conference finals and led 2-0 before losing to the Thunder. The following year, Tim Duncan averaged 18 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three blocks, the Spurs returned to the Finals to once again face Lebron James, but James was surrounded by a different team, the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat featuring Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. The Spurs were close to destroying the Miami dynasty but a miracle shot by Ray Allen in Game 6 kept Miami alive and subsequently won them the series. The following year the Spurs bounced back determined, they recorded 62 regular season wins, and in overtime of game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, Duncan scored 7 of the teams 11 points to clinch the win, after the game, the usually quiet Duncan guaranteed a championship. The guarantee proved to be true as the Spurs put together one of the most beautiful, dominant performances in NBA Finals history to defeat possibly the greatest big 3 ever, this was Tim’s fifth and last ring, oh and that new blood Kawhi Leonard? Finals MVP.
The Spurs didn’t repeat or win another title. Tim isn’t leaving a champion, he didn’t score 60 points in his last game, no farewell tour. Just his style. While his career was glamorous, Tim was humble, never drawing unnecessary attention. This seemingly quiet retirement is a fitting end to an amazing career for a quiet man. Tim will be immortalized through the memories of many, from his bank shot to his showing of emotion or lack thereof, it was all Tim, the greatest Spur and greatest power forward ever has officially retired today, Monday, July 11th, 2016, but don’t expect it to dominate the news, that’s just not Tim.