Two months ago, we wrote about the likelihood that we may have seen the last of Tim Duncan after the San Antonio Spurs’ loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 6 of the Western Conference semi-finals. Nothing was confirmed on that day, but if you watched that game, seeing Duncan play in the last few minutes of a blowout loss felt like a swan song of sorts. I had never seen Gregg Popovich do that in all my years of watching the NBA, so when I saw it, the thought immediately crossed my mind.
He’s going to retire.
On Monday, the San Antonio Spurs made it official in the most Spurs-ian way imaginable. Tim Duncan’s retirement announcement was an eight-paragraph press release that didn’t contain one single quote. It actually read more like a résumé than anything else, and if you spent time reading the whole damn thing, the more you start wondering if Duncan really accomplished all of that in his all-universe 19-year NBA career.
The truth is every nugget of information in that release is true. We all know about the five titles, the three Finals MVPs, the two MVPs, the 15 All-NBA and All-Defensive selections, and the undisputed title of “greatest power forward in league history.”
But did you know that Duncan is also just the third player in league history to win 1,000 games with one team? Did you know that he played 9,000 minutes in his postseason career, spread out over 251 career playoff games? Think about that. Tim Duncan played the equivalent of three full regular seasons in the playoffs on his way to winning five championships.
If this were any other player, we’d be celebrating him with plaudits and compliments to kingdom come. But this is Tim Duncan, a man whose highlight reel runs like an endless loop of hook shots, spin moves, and bank shots. It’s not the traditional kind of highlight; it’s the Tim Duncan kind of highlight.
That’s precisely the reason the NBA, in all of its ability to spout hyperbole with the expertise of a talking head, was right on the money when it said that there will never be a player like Tim Duncan again. The closest the league has to one right now is Dirk Nowitzki, and as great as he is—a first ballot Hall of Famer himself—let’s not get sideways into thinking that he’s on the level of San Antonio’s No. 21.
Timmy D is literally one-of-a-kind. It wouldn’t even be fair to call him the last vestige of a dying breed of traditional post-up big men because doing so would mean that there were others in the past that were on his level. There may be an argument to be made on a skills level, but when the discussion turns into career accomplishments, only Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar can claim to have had a similar kind of sustained level of excellence like Tim Duncan's. He is, was, and forever will be, the gold standard for power forwards in the NBA.
We know there are people who will argue that assessment. That’s fine. We’ve all done it in the past and we’re just as likely to do it again. It’s part of NBA fandom tradition to needlessly compare one great opposite another. But Tim Duncan is the exception.
From everything he accomplished on the basketball court to the manner in which he cultivated a team-first mentality to the way he proudly represented the San Antonio Spurs for 19 years, Tim Duncan was a true giant among giants. He’s not going to say anything to toot his own horn, but in the absence of a quote from arguably the least quotable superstar in NBA history, his résumé is more than willing to speak for him.
Look it up. His résumé speaks loud.
Image via NBA.com