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Tim Duncan was widely known in the NBA for being boring despite being one of the 10 greatest NBA players to ever play the game. If Duncan had played in virtually any other era, no one would have labeled him boring, but in today’s NBA watching Timmy play was the NBA equivalent of watching paint dry for many casual basketball fans.
The Big Fundamental
Duncan couldn’t finish way above the rim, sprint down the floor as fast as other guys, or knock down three’s consistently. Most of his scoring came from simple turnaround hook shots or 15 foot crease shots. Duncan played how our high school basketball coach wished that we all would’ve played. He had good footwork, great shooting form, he always boxed out, and he knew how to find the backboard. From 2003 through 2016, Duncan hit 945 bank shots. Dwayne Wade had the second most in the league with 333.
It wasn’t just style of play that defined Tim, but his demeanor on the court. Despite being a fierce competitor, Duncan never jawed off to guys or got into fights. In fact, you were more likely to get tips on your game from Duncan. Former Washington Wizards Power Forward Etan Thomas shared the following story about Tim Duncan recently on Facebook.
“So we’re playing the Spurs and I get the ball on the post. I inside pivot and sweep to the middle for my jump hook and he blocks it. So as we are running down the court he says to me “that was a good move but you have to get more into my body so you can either draw the foul or I can’t block it,” Thomas writes, “so I didn’t know if he was talking noise or what so just kind of looked at him confused and said ok. Then, a few plays later I did it again got more into his body and he couldn’t block it. I missed the shot and he looked at me and said much better and kept playing.”
Duncan was as fundamental off the court as he was on. He never worse fancy suits to games, always opting for a button up and jeans. He avoided press conferences when possible, and when he gave them they were always short and sweet.
Duncan never built a brand
Today’s NBA is all about the brand. All the best players today have nicknames, shoe deals, signature hair styles, or a certain swagger that defines them as a player. LeBron is the king, Steph Curry is the baby faced assassin, James Harden has his beard, and Anthony Davis has his unibrow.
The personal branding that has become as much a part of the NBA as the game itself isn’t a new phenomenon. Guys like Julius Erving started it, Michael Jordan defined it, Allen Iverson expanded it, and LeBron and Kobe made it a staple of the league. For the last 10 years, every superstar player has been a brand, with the exception of one guy, Tim Duncan.
All Tim Duncan ever cared about was winning championships
Despite the brands and the entertainment factor of today’s NBA, players continue to pretend like it’s all about winning. Whether you’re a Philadelphia 76er or a Golden State Warrior, you’re obligated to tell the media that winning a championship is the reason you play the game.
While that’s clearly just a script for today’s NBA superstars, it wasn’t for Timmy. Duncan didn’t care whether he was the first, second, third, or fourth best player on the team, he just wanted to win. Tim was fine with David Robinson, Tony Parker, or Kawhi Leonard was knocking down the shots while he continued to give everything he had on defense and on the glass.
We don’t know how the NBA is going to evolve going into the future, but we do know that it will evolve, and evolution means moving forward. Knowing this, we can confidently say there will never be another Tim Duncan in the NBA. Duncan isn’t just leaving the league, he’s taking a piece of it with him.