Tim Duncan, in full Timothy Theodore Duncan, (born April 25, 1976, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands), American collegiate and professional basketball player who led the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association (NBA) to five championships (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2014).
Duncan by the Numbers
TIM DUNCAN [Player] --1997-2016 Duncan is a
- 15-time NBA All-Star (1998, 2000-11, 2013, 2015)
- Eight-time member of the NBA All-Defensive First Team (1999-2003, 2005, 2007, 2008).
- Five-time NBA Champion with the San Antonio Spurs (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2014),
- Finals MVP three times (1999, 2003, 2005).
- In 2002 and 2003, he was named NBA MVP
- In 1998 he won Rookie of the Year.
- Duncan is the only player in NBA history with 1,000 or more wins with one team, which he accomplished in his 19 years with the Spurs.
- He is ranked in the top 10 for NBA all-time rebounds and blocks leaders.
- As a college athlete at Wake Forest, Duncan earned ACC Player of the Year and was a unanimous First Team All-American in 1996 and 1997.
- In 1997, he also collected the Wooden, Naismith, Rupp, and Oscar Robertson Awards, while being named AP College Player of the Year.
“Tim Duncan is the greatest power forward to ever play the game – period,” Shaquille O’Neal said Monday after hearing Duncan had retired. “He is family – in the family of the greatest big men of all time.”
O’Neal continued, “I don’t think anyone ever saw him as not being black. I just think we are all products of our own environments. He grew up on an island surrounded by water and became a swimmer. When I go to the Bahamas, I hardly ever see gold chains and tattoos and braids. It is a different world. But it didn’t take long for Tim to be accepted in our world because of who he was as a solid dude and an unbelievable player.”
Tim Duncan is, without a doubt, the greatest power forward of all time.
Anyone considered knowledgeable about basketball would agree with that statement, and most people would be hard-pressed to even make a case for another power forward. Duncan is the only player in NBA history with such a stranglehold on his position, and that positional dominance works strongly in his favor as the greatest of all time.
At center, the case could be made for Kareem, Russell, Wilt, Hakeem, Shaq and Shawn Bradley (just kidding). At small forward, Larry Legend is most people’s pick, but the case could be made for LeBron James (sorry, but it’s true), Elgin Baylor, Havlicek, Dr. J and even, Scottie Pippen, depending on where you fall in the argument about the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty.
Some might say this is partly because it’s been a historically weak position, but it’s also in large part due to the extended brilliance of Duncan.
In terms of playing both ends of the floor, no power forward did it better and because of the crater-sized gap between him and No. 2 (Barkley? Dirk?); that, at least, gets him to the table of the "Greatest of All Time Feast."
A Great Teammate
If you’re still not even a little convinced yet that Duncan belongs in the argument, Duncan as the ultimate teammate is the best case that can be made for him.
Duncan’s career has transitioned from the incredibly slow tempo the Spurs were famous for playing to start the 2000s to one of the highest scoring teams over the last few years. While Phil Jackson had to design an offense as a last-ditch effort to prevent Jordan from being such a ball hog, Duncan adapted to any style and any role his team needed.
If he needed to lead the offense and score 40 points, he did it. If he needed to control the paint on defense and get the fast break started, he did it. You never heard one word, one excuse or one complaint out of Duncan; he just did what he had to in order to help his team win.
Tim deferred to Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili because he knew it would help them win a title, and it did. The responsibility of a superstar is essentially two-fold:
1) you have to be able to carry a franchise;
2) you have to be able to make everyone around you better.
The ultimate goal of your best player is to make the team as competitive as possible, and both those tasks do just that. Duncan proved he could carry a franchise when he won back-to-back MVPs, and he’s also proved over the past 15 years that everyone loves playing with him, and everyone plays their best when he’s on the court.
You can’t say that about MJ or Wilt, and even Magic, demanding a coach to be fired doesn’t exactly scream good soldier. But Duncan only cared about winning and the success of his teammates, and aren’t those the two most important things for a superstar?
For this version, we’re going to create the "Ultimate NBA" where we have 30 teams, all starting from scratch and able to pick any player from any era. The team will get the services of every player for the duration of their career, and the franchise will have no knowledge of who they will be playing against or what era they will be playing in.
In other words, you have to be prepared for EVERYTHING. That means you could be playing in a 1950s style one night and a modern-day version of the game the next.
Let’s talk about how the drafting process would go. Because seven-footers are so rare and so meaningful to the history of the NBA, I’d imagine many teams would be leaning in that direction right from the get-go.
Sure, everyone loves Jordan’s fiery competitiveness and his incredible will to win, but punching teammates in the face and gambling at practice for thousands on half-court shots isn’t the best atmosphere to create for a franchise unless you had the perfect coach in place.
Since we can’t guarantee with our new franchises who the coach will be, picking Jordan would be a bit more of a "gambling" risk. Wilt was notoriously selfish so he’s out. Bird and Magic both had shortened careers, Kobe had Colorado, Shaq had offseason cupcakes, rap albums and Kazaam and Oscar was too bitter.
That leaves us with Duncan, Abdul-Jabbar and Russell, but I have to eliminate Russell simply because he wasn’t big enough to handle modern players. Between Duncan and Kareem, ultimately, I think most teams would pick Duncan because of Kareem’s supposed moodiness, lack of defensive prowess and overall disconnect from his teammates.
It took an infectious like Magic to bring out Kareem’s minimal personality; Duncan WAS that personality, and in the end, that’s the difference.
Duncan has proven throughout his career that he can play in any system, with any type of teammates, do everything necessary to win and make everyone around him better. Plus, he’s proved that he can do it for 15-plus years and never do anything outside of basketball to jeopardize himself or the organization.
What other all time great can you say that about? (Letting you think) Exactly.
And that, along with the fact that he's one of the most talented basketball players to ever grace the earth, is why Tim Duncan could be considered the greatest NBA player of all time.