“He’s not throwing behind-the-back passes, he’s not doing tomahawk jams, he’s not doing anything that’s very flashy. He’s just a very unassuming guy who goes about his job, and the next thing you know he’s got 23 points and 20 rebounds.”
– Byron Scott
Understated. Downplayed. Undervalued.
There aren’t many NBA players like Tim: in fact, most rational people wouldn’t hear those 3 adjectives and assume that they described a first ballot Hall of Fame NBA Player. The correlation between these qualities and a professional athlete are paradoxical, and frankly, downright impossible; yet, that’s the player that Tim Duncan was.
Because of his quiet persona and his refusal of any media attention, Tim is the most chronically underrated player to step foot on an NBA court. Duncan’s resume speaks for itself – in 19 seasons he made 15 All-star games, won two MVP awards, captured five championships, and also won three NBA finals MVP awards. He is the most winningest San Antonio Spur of all time, and he led the organization to a record of 1072-438 in his combined regular seasons with the franchise – the best record over that 19 year period of any pro sports team in the United States. Duncan, along with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are also the winningest playoff trio in NBA history. The trio broke the record in 2014 becoming the record holders for most playoff wins by a threesome.
Yet, with all of Duncan’s accolades and achievements, he was never the target of the same adulation as the other greats before him; even in his last NBA season, while Kobe Bryant hosted a season long farewell tour in which he was showered with love and affection, Tim Duncan and the Spurs quietly put together the best regular season record in franchise history.
Duncan only had two signature shoes, compared to LeBron’s 13 so far, and never signed a lifetime contract with Nike, compared to the reported billion dollar contract which LeBron signed last year – je just wasn’t marketable. He quietly played for a lesser sports market in San Antonio and doesn’t have the magnetic personality typical of players under the spotlight of an NBA legend. Many young NBA fans don’t understand and will never grasp the unassuming greatness of Tim Duncan in the same way that they respect the Kobe Bryants and the Lebron James of the league because frankly, he just won’t stick in our minds long enough. He’s forgettable.
Tim Duncan is a man who achieved the ultimate peak in NBA status on 5 separate occasions by simply staying true to who he is. Why should Tim Duncan’s illustrious career be overlooked when we focus on players whose off-court antics and newsworthiness rival their production as players? Over the last few weeks, we said all the politically correct things, praised Tim go-getter mentality, and appreciated his career, but only weeks later, the Duncan story is dead – everyone is back to talking about the Warriors, Westbrook’s free-agency, and what Kobe is doing in the next phase of his media career. Where will Tim Duncan be 5 to 10 to 15 years from now?
Duncan deserves our collective thoughts in the a way tantamount to the respect that Barkley, Bird and Magic were shown after their careers; but sadly, he won’t. Just like his playing career. his legacy will be overlooked and undervalued.
Tim Duncan is the greatest power-forward in NBA history, yet he won’t be in any of the barbershop discussions or lunch table debates about who was the best player in NBA history. When was the last time you heard anyone say that Duncan was their favorite player? Or the best to ever play the game?
Duncan’s legacy should not be penalized for his quiet personality – if anything, Tim should be glorified for his understated ways, and embraced now and for many more years to come. Tim Duncan showed us how to achieve the best in ourselves, without losing ourselves, and he deserves our thanks.