The Quiet World of Tim Duncan

May 22, 2012 by


Tim Duncan’s shoulders were hunched, his chin buried in his chest, as he conducted a post game on-court interview with an ESPN sideline reporter.  He was asked how he felt during these 2012 playoffs compared to prior years.  Duncan answered the question in as few words as possible and quietly walked off the court.

The best power forward of his generation is the most unassuming NBA basketball player ever.  I at times forget he is still in the league.  The media has absolutely no interest in covering Duncan.  His post game press conferences are as exciting as chatting up a librarian.  He is the John Stockton of big men-a hall of fame game without an ounce of flair.  He is happily married with two children.  You never hear from him in the social media world, doesn’t attempt to make a hip hop record and he never gives the media a juicy sound bite to plaster all over the internet and sports pages.  It amazes me that someone who stands 6 foot 11 inches tall and is a 13 time NBA All Star, can fade from everyone’s conscience.  Did Thom Yorke have Duncan in his thoughts when he wrote the song, How to Disappear Completely?

Tim Duncan’s career statistics don’t even jump out at you.

  • 20.3 ppg/11.3 rpg/2.2 bpg/.507 FG%

However this might.

  • 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 NBA world champion with the San Antonio Spurs. (Quite possibly a 5th title coming later next month)
  • Three time NBA finals MVP.

That is Tim Duncan in a nutshell.  A highly intelligent basketball player with an efficient game, who just happens to possess four NBA world championship rings. (Which he’s probably never slid onto his fingers)  Don’t let Tim Duncan’s “aw shucks” attitude fool you.  Once he steps on the court, he owns you before tipoff. (Just ask Kevin Garnett) Duncan can beat you in numerous ways, even without gaudy numbers.  He out-thinks you, he executes the game plan flawlessly, he is always two plays ahead of you and though many have attempted, you will never get inside his head.  His opponents scratch and claw like hell to gain any advantage over a seemingly disinterested Tim Duncan.  They fight for 48 minutes, giving it everything they have.  They are slumped over with fatigue after the final buzzer as they glance up at the scoreboard in dismay.  The result is unavoidable, another “W” in the column for the Spurs.

NBA basketball players are so physically talented; it’s like watching another species.  Your jaw drops over an insane dunk by Blake Griffen or Lebron James flying out of nowhere to block from.  Basketball is a beautiful game to watch.  However, intelligence is what wins NBA championships.  In the Spurs second round match up against the Los Angeles Clippers, we had the tale of two distinctly different teams. The Los Angeles Clippers won the beauty contest. The Spurs won the series and it was never close.  The Clippers have arguably the best point guard in the game and a raw talent in Griffen, and the Spurs defensive scheme worked flawlessly.  The Spurs made it extremely difficult for Paul to work the pick and roll.  Griffen had flashes of solid play, but never enough.  No one else on the Clippers had much input resulting in a four game sweep.  The Spurs will be rested for the inevitable matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder.  This should be a fun series to watch.

Led by the NBA’s best coach, Gregg Popovich, the Spurs continue to win even with an elderly roster.  How can this be you ask?  It’s quite simple actually; the Spurs are far and away smarter than any team in the league.  They long ago put aside their egos and embraced the Popovich game plan.  When Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili are healthy they are a better team than any of Kobe’s championship Laker squads.  The Spurs sign solid veterans with past playoff experience to support the Spurs big three stars.  The Spurs are very similar in approach to the New England Patriots.  Sure both teams have a handful of stars, but they are more talented teams in their respective leagues.  My Cousin Alex said it best with his NBA playoff preview post when he stated that the Spurs remind him of the token old guys at the YMCA who no one can beat.  The Clippers are just another team of cocky high school kids at the Y who can’t beat friends of their parents.  Physical talent minus knowledge and the ability to execute will send you packing every time.

My whole life, I’ve played against guys that resemble Duncan in terms of their aloof personality and casual style of play.  You look over the box score the next day and can’t for the life of you, figure out how they scored 25 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.  They are the guys at the party who are just happy to hang out with friends and have no intention of drawing any attention.  They might get drunk, but you will never know it.   They could care less for the drama that surrounds them.  They date the same girl for years.  They are humble and reserved.  They tear you up on the courts with placid competitiveness.

Fans of Tim Duncan are classified into three distinct groups of people.  I would also argue that these groups are rather minuscule in size.  See anyone sporting a Spurs number 21 jersey lately, or really ever, outside of AT&T Center?  The obvious group of Duncan fans is Spurs fans. (San Antonio Spurs rank 24 out of the 30 NBA franchises in terms of market size) The second group of fans attended Wake Forest in the mid to late nineties.  The third group hate hip hop and stay clear of cities with populations of over 300,000.  None of the aforementioned groups are considered cool and neither is Tim Duncan.  Liking Tim Duncan doesn’t mean you do not appreciate talent and greatness.  Calling yourself a fan of Tim Duncan is like being a fan of Simon and Garfunkel.  In a league where image is top of mind for every player, Duncan does not abide.  Sometimes a band or artist comes off cool or hip by not being cool or hip.  This is not the case for Duncan and I am sure that stigma rolls right off his back.

Tim Duncan will be remembered as one of the best power forwards of all time.  Spur fans, years from now, will look up towards the rafters and see the championship banners of the Duncan led teams.  He will end up more popular in San Antonio than the Alamo.  The shame of it all is that future NBA players will aspire to be LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony rather than Tim Duncan.  Most kids with any inkling of basketball talent are satisfied with basking in the cheers of promise, Duncan walks away from cheers of accomplishment.  There is nothing wrong with either, but don’t confuse the two, one is a quiet winner, and the other is just a noisy spectacle.  It’s pretty obvious which one Tim Duncan is.



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