By Tyler Lemco
If you think that Tim Duncan is ‘boring’ then you’re an idiot who knows nothing about basketball. Is perfection boring to you? Is excellence not something you enjoy? Sure, Blake Griffin may jump high and do some cool mid-air spins, and Kevin Durant may sell sneakers, but nobody in the history of the game of basketball has played the game as mistake-free as Tim Duncan. In a society that’s obsessed with head-to-head comparisons and ranking everyone in order, Duncan is undeniably a top 10 all-time NBA player. He is, arguably, a top five. I would argue that he’s #2, second only to His Airness.
Before you get your Kobe jersey all in a bunch, let me just throw a couple of facts at you. Since being drafted with the first pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs have made the playoffs every single season. To put that in perspective, he was drafted seven weeks before South Park premiered. He joined the San Antonio Spurs before Stone Cold Steve Austin ever won the WWF Championship. His rookie season, Michael Jordan won the NBA Championship with the Chicago Bulls. He’s been consistently atop the league for that damn long. Duncan is the only player remaining in the NBA from the 1997 draft, although reports from before the draft are that 30% of Spurs fans wanted their team to select Keith Van Horn. That’s Tim for you; overlooked since before he even got started.
Duncan, now 39 years old and older than Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, has been chugging along for 18 seasons, all with the Spurs. That’s a rare feat in today’s day. After all, Shaquille O’Neal jumped from team to team, LeBron James left Cleveland for Miami just to go back again, Karl Malone tarnished his legacy as a Utah Jazz to join the Lakers, and even Michael Jordan came back for two regretful seasons in Washington. Duncan has been a Spur through and through, winning 50+ games in 17 of his 18 seasons. The only time he fell short was the shortened lockout year in 1999 (they went 37-13), and the Spurs ended up winning the championship. The Spurs are the winning-est franchise of the last decade. I don’t mean the winning-est franchise in the NBA. I mean the winning-est franchise in SPORTS. Duncan has more 50-win seasons under his belt than 26 other NBA franchises. There only are 30 teams in the league. He’s a 12-time All-NBA Defensive Team selection, a 14-time All-NBA Team Selection, a 15-time NBA All-Star, a 2-time NBA MVP, 3-time Finals MVP, and 5-time NBA Champion (not to mention winning titles 15 years apart and in three different decades). Let that settle in for a second before moving on to the next paragraph.
The reason he gets overlooked is because he doesn’t sell many shoes, he isn’t in a lot of commercials, he hasn’t hosted SNL, and he hasn’t had any cute cameos in any movies. He doesn’t go clubbing and you’ll never find him on TMZ. Instead, he enjoys playing paintball and he’s an avid gamer. He doesn’t get the recognition of a Kobe or a LeBron, but he’s fine with that. To compare, Duncan’s yearly salary is around $17 million. He also takes home about $2 million in endorsements each year. By contrast, LeBron James makes about $19 million per season while taking home over $50 million annually off the court. Perhaps it’s because the Spurs are a small market club. Maybe it’s because Duncan prefers to win by playing defense, making smart passes, and getting his teammates involved rather than flaunting and showboating. Unlike Kobe Bryant, who recently produced a documentary about himself and is doing interviews left, right and center as his career winds down, Duncan remains as constant, and perfect, as ever.
So who could rival Duncan for the #2 spot? Let’s look at the candidates. There’s Bill Russell, who is arguably the most dominant player of all time, but he did his damage in the 50’s and 60’s. It’s impossible to properly rank someone from that era, considering how much the game has evolved and changed. There’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who tops many of the NBA all-time lists, but that’s because he played something like 44 seasons. He also never won without an all-time great alongside him, winning championships with Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson. Plus, he switched teams mid-way through his career, which he loses points for that. There’s Magic Johnson, who is absolutely an all-time great, but tragic circumstances cut his career drastically short. Others could make arguments for Kobe, Bird, Wilt, Shaq, or a slew of other names, but they’d just be wrong.
We’re witnessing greatness, people. We’re seeing the conclusion to one of the most illustrious careers in the history of sports. Tim Duncan is the second best player in the history of the NBA, and if he wins a sixth championship this year, he may just be first. Oops. Sorry, Mike.
Tyler is a writer from Montreal, Canada. He enjoys cheeseburgers, sports, music, and double cheeseburgers. Follow him on Twitter and every other social media @tlemco