Winning Is Fundamental: A #21 Gun Salute To Tim Duncan Upon His Retirement
Today we raise a glass to toast Timothy Theodore "Tim" Duncan aka Big Fundamentals aka Old Man Riverwalk aka TD aka Timmy, who retired yesterday with a legacy that was already in stone set for several years before we arrived here.
He now retires quite simply as the best basketball player of his era and easily the best power forward, as well as the best to lace up sneakers after Michael Jordan and before LeBron James.
Who You Got?
Don’t try to sell me on Shaq being that.
Shaq at his fiercest, like the 2001 playoff season in which he nearly caved in Dikembe Mutumbo's bird chest in five NBA Finals games was more dominant than Duncan or just about anybody else who ever played for that matter.
But let's be real: Shaq dicked around a lot, also had considerably more glaring weaknesses in his game, played for six different franchises (more than any other great player besides Moses), left almost all of them by blowing up the bridge, got hurt a lot more and won a lot less.
Don’t Make Me Laugh.
Timmy is a full tier above that ballhoggedy-chucker/borderline-sociopath.
Although I do find the contrast between Kobe celebrating the finale of his season-long self-congratulatory retirement tour with a national TV ad during the NBA Finals in a helicopter wearing a Ghostbusters jumpsuit with his self-glossed bitten nickname plus a proton pack attached to be a truth serum that's filled with Hi-C-Ecto-Cooler levels of sweetly delicious irony.
Because that is a fairly succinct commentary on the stylistic gap between these two players/personalities.
That’s also the type of gap the mainstream media along with the tweet/blogosphere so desperately wanted to use to differentiate Kevin Durant from LeBron James, as it cluelessly blathered on endlessly about KD’s first (and last) re-up before now when compared to The Decision, all the while while lapping up Kobe's newfangled revisionist history story of how being an asshole made his teams better.
However now that Bron has all his bona fides while KD left for the consecutive NBA Finalist, 73-win opposition, it’s back to the drawing board with that failed 'quiet/classy' narrative for Durant.
That never really changed at any point when it came to Tim Duncan.
You really could make a fairly solid argument that Tim Duncan had more positive impact on the team that drafted him than anyone in the past half century post-Russell, including Magic and Michael and LeBron and Bird let alone Kobe.
None of those guys had anywhere near NINETEEN YEARS as the centerpiece (or power forward piece depending on who you ask) of a five-time champion franchise (the only titles in his team's history in the ABA/NBA) while winning 60+ games each season, being a legit title contender in at least 16 of those years and even this season which ended painfully with Duncan finally looking close to finished had been up until that point the best record a Spurs team ever had with Duncan-like help before they ran into The Thunder's buzz-saw.
First man to be voted First Team All-NBA in each of his first 10 seasons.
The 3 (could have been 5) time NBA Finals MVP who gave us the best example of an individual-led NBA Championship in the modern era in 2003.
That 2003 season played without any other teammates you could remotely call an All-Star at that time, a season in which Manu Ginobli was still a bench player in more than just name only, David Robinson was playing with a fork sticking out of his back and 19-year-old Tony Parker was a rookie PG so skittish that Pop removed him for Speedy Claxton down the stretches of games during the playoffs while a Young Stephen Jackson was arguably the second option by the end of that year’s Finals……..one in which the consecutive regular-season MVP Tim Duncan sealed the fate of the New Jersey Nets with nearly a quadruple-double in the close-out when including blocks.
People say that Duncan and by extension, the Spurs (who Pop & RC Buford were lucky/good enough to craft in his image) were boring.
I never understood that as an NBA fan.
The Spurs played several different brands of basketball during their runs while in the Duncan era, with each different enough that if you’re a basketball fan you’d almost have to like at least one of them.
And please tell me who played in more memorable basketball games total over the past two decades than Tim Duncan and The Spurs versus…..the Lakers……Pistons…….Mavericks…..Suns…..Heat?!?
Timmy’s buzzer-beater three on Shaq’s Phoenix squad in 2007?
Timmy’s not-quite-buzzer-beater-enough basket before DFish’s with .4 left in 2004?
That first half of Old Man Riverwalk Rim-Rattling/Rim-Narrowing Throwback Fury that he imposed on the Heat in 2013 Game 6 of the Finals?
The fact that Duncan not being on the floor to grab a rebound before Bosh got it back out to Ray Allen in the corner to stop TD from having six became a part of this game's great "What If?" moments?
The blissfully incredulous look on his face during The Bob Horry Game in ’03?
Consoling Manu after his absolutely blowing Game 7 versus the Mavs in 2006?
TIm Duncan was boring?!?
Can’t you think of five to six trademark Duncan looks right now?
The rebound clutch and protect?
The throw-back 23/21/game-winner from 2014?
And who had more fun on the bench than Tim Duncan?
The slouched head belying a quiet confidence and intensity that never had any time for Kevin Garnett’s studio-gangster nonsensical jawing?
Rubbing the top of his Little Buddy Tony “Pepe LePew” Parker’s head?
All fairly well embedded in most true NBA Fans memory.
As a matter of fact my own favorite Tim Duncan memory is a personal one that centers around the memorable .GIF of him laughing in Dwight Howard's face after getting him tossed out of a second straight playoff game in the Spurs embarrassing sweep of the Lakers in L.A.
I arrived at a then-popular sports bar called South on Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica to meet up with some friends who were there primarily to watch a UFC fight that I couldn't care less about.
After getting there, my boy Castro casually mentions that Tim Duncan is chilling over in the room on the way to the men's room in the back.
With no introduction I roll past his table, pump breaks on his crew watching the fights, whip out my phone then say 'Timmy, *thank you* for this' while showing it to him, then scrolling thru for the 'Deal With It' companion piece while some bouncer starts rolling up on me like I'm trying to shoot the president until Big Fundamental gives him the 'relax' look.
Tim starts laughing, says 'thanks man, appreciate that' after eyeing them both off my phone, gives me a pound then I'm on my way.
Head to the men's room to handle my biz, wash up, start heading to the door when just before doing so nearly get smacked in the face with the door swinging open which I then stop with my foot on pure reflex.
Look up to see Timmy again this time with the 'did I just foul you, bro?' look on his mug as we both exchange apologies and let the other pass by.
As I'm exiting I can't resist, lean my head back around the door I'm exiting from, then say 'go get that fifth one dude, that's the only way they're gonna get it, YOU are the best basketball player of this era, fuck Shaq and FUCK Kobe'.
*Duncan gives off a bemused 'you mad?' grin as he settles into a space beyond the partition*
'Thanks brotha, appreciate that'
Departed the men's room to let the Great Tim Duncan do his thing before hopefully going on to win another ring, which he would one year later.
When it comes to a player in my lifetime who did more to reward the franchise that drafted him, there fundamentally is no one greater.