The Show-Man: A Tribute to Tim Duncan

Featured photo courtesy of Zereshk, via Creative Commons.

By now, you’ve seen it.

Number 21, done; and with this one, it’s unlikely a second-wind reprise is in store.

By now, you’ve seen it.

You’ve seen his 19 remarkable NBA seasons somehow squeezed into the ultimate highlight reel, those fundamentals for which he is so famously known gracing your television, computer or phone screen.

By now, you’ve seen it.

You’ve seen the far-ranging tribute tweets, the arguments pegging him as one of the top 10 players in history (if not the best defender ever), and the black, silver and white uniforms he wore for the entirety of his NBA tenure.

Since he was drafted as the top overall pick by the San Antonio Spurs in the 1997 NBA draft, 40-year-old Tim Duncan, who announced his retirement Monday, has shown us a lot. Selecting the most impressive of his accolades proves a challenge — there are so many to choose from.

Some might say it’s his five NBA championships, all with San Antonio, that define him. Others might take it a step farther, pointing to his two league MVP honors, or maybe his three Finals MVPs. Sifting through this sea of accomplishments, achievements like a Rookie of the Year win and 15 All-Star appearances might get overlooked, though they’re no less important.

But by now we’ve seen other pieces of Duncan, pieces not made of metal, that make up the puzzle of this (cliché alert) living legend. 

There’s no denying Duncan is one of the all-time greats; what makes this so true? His double-double average for more than ten seasons helps, as do the efforts he made to get the Spurs to the playoffs for each of his 19 years. But his legendary status seems to transcend beyond the numbers.

Duncan was a rare bird, especially in the NBA. He was the one who memorably got ejected from a 2007 game for laughing, receiving his second technical foul while seated on the Spurs’ bench. He was the one identified by his quiet and unassuming demeanor. He was the one for whom, in at least one person’s case, a soft spot was held, despite Duncan’s station on a different team and in a conference completely separate from her beloved Boston Celtics. 

There are other ways he swam against the tide. His completion of four years of college, for example — a feat that seems increasingly less common in today’s NBA culture — or his decision to remain with one franchise for 19 years, placing him in the history books as one of only three players (along with Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles and John Stockton in Utah) to do so.

He’s served as the unofficial skills clinic leader for aspiring hoopers across the country, perhaps most notably as he deftly spun and maneuvered around what was then LeBron James’ Miami Heat and won the 2014 title in five games. In that and countless other circumstances, he’s shown that playing the game the right way can actually be really, really rewarding.

So it’s an understatement to say Duncan deserves his retirement. His decision to opt out of the glamorous retirement tour he would have received had he announced his departure prior to this season leaves fans with no choice but to praise him after the fact. 

It seems only fair that, after all he’s shown us, it’s his turn to lean back and soak up the abundant show of appreciation and gratitude headed his way. 

Gillian Vesely

Gillian Vesely

Columnist at The Left Bench
Gillian has been writing for The Left Bench since 2014. She can be reached at gvesely12@gmail.com or on Twitter @gillianvesely. Contact: gvesely12@gmail.com
Gillian Vesely

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Gillian has been writing for The Left Bench since 2014. She can be reached at gvesely12@gmail.com or on Twitter @gillianvesely. Contact: gvesely12@gmail.com