The Bully Pulpit

Tim Duncan Announces Retirement

tim duncan retirement

On Monday, July 11, San Antonio Spurs great Tim Duncan officially announced his retirement from the NBA.

Most of saw this coming. If not this year, it would’ve been next. The 40-year-old, 19-year veteran had seen his output drop consistently over the past four seasons, and it was only a matter of time before “The Big Fundamental” started hurting his team more than helping it.

Since it’s the slow season, and there’s hardly any NBA news coming across the wire, you can be sure that ESPN analysts will spend the next two weeks fixating on the BIG questions, things like: What can we take away from Tim Duncan’s career? How will he be remembered? Is he the best power forward of all time? Was he ever ELITE? How do you define “ELITE,” Skip Bayless? TELL ME SKIP, I NEED TO KNOW GODDAMNIT!

I’ll try my best to put Tim Duncan’s career into perspective:

There are two things to consider when talking about Tim Duncan. First, are his numbers. 19 years. 5 NBA Championships. 15 All-Star appearances. 2 MVP awards. 3 Finals MVP awards. He finishes his career 17th in all-time points, 7th in rebounds, 6th in blocks, 2nd in defensive win shares, and 2nd in seasons played. For those 19 years, he was an absolute rock. 20-and-10. That’s what you’d ask of him— that’s what he’d deliver.

Those numbers are unarguably great, but they only represent half of Tim Duncan’s legacy. The other half speaks to a much more personal level. Simply put— he was just a good dude. Unlike some other all-time greats, Tim Duncan never made it about himself. He wasn’t one to demand the ball, demand attention, or demand a bigger contract. And that’s why he won.

On a lesser team, I’m not sure Duncan would’ve had the same success. Would he have been able to drag a hapless 2005-06 Cleveland Cavaliers team to the NBA Finals, like LeBron did in his third year? No. He was never that type of player. For Tim Duncan, his success was as much about the system, as the system’s success was about him.

Want proof? Look no further than the previously mentioned NBA Finals. Who defeated LeBron’s Cavs in 2006? You guessed it— Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs.

Never flashy, never polarizing— Tim Duncan did what it took to win. He’ll go down as the example of a true professional— proof that ego and success can be mutually exclusive.

For all this talk about the NBA’s me-first culture, we have seen a lot of great guys pass through the NBA— a lot of true professionals willing to accept their role, just like Duncan. We’ve also seen a lot of players with superstar-caliber talent, just like Duncan. Very rarely do we see both qualities in one player. Duncan was a rare breed, the type of guy we may never see again.

Now it’s all over, and not a moment too soon. I’m glad he called it quits now. There won’t be any Michael-as-a-Wizard years for Duncan. He won’t go off and do whatever the hell Kevin Garnett did last year. He made the right decision and left on his own terms.

Either that, or he saw Golden State’s roster and said, “Yeah, I think I’m good.”

Regardless, we should all take time to appreciate everything Tim Duncan brought to the game.

Thank you, Tim. I hope retirement treats you well.

(Header photo via)

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