As a general rule, superstar athletes these days don’t make much of an effort to shy away from the spotlight. After all, it takes a bit of an ego to climb your way to the top of the mountain in the first place, and flashing your pearly whites for the camera can lead to juicy endorsement contracts.
Who doesn’t want to make a cool extra million bucks for munching on a Snickers and letting the world know how effing delicious it is?
But once in a while a player comes around who’s good enough to make it all about “Me! Me! Me!” but chooses to take the business-as-usual route off the court.
Tim Duncan is such a player… and I can’t help but wonder if his lack of showboating for the media has led to a slight under-valuation in the eyes of fans with regards to how good he really is.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s far from being an interview no-show like the NFL’s Marshawn Lynch, and he’s routinely referred to as a future Hall-of-Famer, but he doesn’t get close to the same level of mad props as the rest of the NBA’s finest.
Hey, can’t a Spur get his name on the ballot?
When MJ made good on his ‘third time’s the charm’ final retirement in 2003, the basketball world just kind of collectively assumed we’d never see another player quite like number 23.
Yet, with sports fans suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in their quest for naming the G.O.A.T., debates have raged from bar stools to rec room sofas as to whether or not Kobe or LeBron might be just as good, if not better, than Michael ‘Air’ Jordan.
No offence to Mr. Bryant or ‘King’ James, but what about four-time NBA champion (and three-time Finals MVP) Tim Duncan?
Now, before you get your panties in a bunch, I’m not implying that Tim Duncan is without a doubt on par with Michael Jordan. What I’m saying is that the greatest power forward to ever play the game has got equal rights to be included in the conversation as Kobe and LeBron do.
Is a fifth ring enough to fully cement his legacy?
Rumors are often just that, but more than one source has whispered that this could be Duncan’s last hoorah should San Antonio win the title. Tim Duncan’s fifth title would propel him into yet another elite sphere of NBA lore.
Only 25 players in the history of the league can lay claim to five or more rings – and a cool 10 of those guys played for the Celtics in the 1960s. (If you’re wondering, Bill Russell is the Grand Poobah of pro basketball hardware. He hoisted the trophy eleven times, including an incredible eight-peat from 1959-1967.)
So while rings don’t mean everything (Robery Horry, with seven, has got more than Michael Jordan), getting one more in the twilight of his career would indeed be significant, especially so when you weigh in with the fact that title number five for Duncan would come at the expense of King James and the Miami Heat’s quest to complete the coveted three-peat.
Whether or not he’ll choose to go out on top is anyone’s guess. When asked about his future plans, ‘Slam’ Duncan was typically diplomatic in his response:
“I’ve not come to that point yet. I don’t know when I’m going to retire. I don’t know what the factors are going to be. I don’t know any of that, and I don’t care about any of that stuff right now. I’m not thinking about that in that respect. It will happen when it happens. I’ll feel it and I’ll know it and I’ll call it a day”.
The Big Fundamental and his playoff ‘Magic’
Over the course of his nearly two-decade long career, Tim Duncan has been a monster in the playoffs. He’s averaged over 20 points in an incredible 11 different playoff runs and topped double-digit nightly rebounds in 12 post-seasons.
He’s led San Antonio to qualify for a league-high 13th straight playoff berth, and with one more postseason double-double he’ll pass Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson as the all-time leader in that category. This is an extremely telling fact, one which I will expand on in the next section below.
Duncan’s incredible consistency has caused improbable damage to his legacy
Casual fans of the game have rarely been wowed by Tim Duncan. His predictable production leaves fans expecting nothing less than big offensive numbers and domination of the boards each and every night. It’s such a common occurrence for him to put up 20 points with 10 boards that we tend to only take notice when he doesn’t put up a double-double.
Which brings me back to the idea that he may soon pass ‘Magic’ as the all-time playoff leader in double-doubles. Along with Jordan and perhaps Larry Bird, Johnson is not only a classic superstar, but he’s the face of an entire generation of basketball. More than 20 years following his retirement, there’s not an NBA fan out there who wouldn’t recognize No.32 should he walk into Dairy Queen and order an M&M Blizzard.
On the other hand, for all of Duncan’s accomplishments, his reserved off-court demeanor and lack of flash will most likely lend his name to disappearing fairly quickly into the abyss of other quietly productive superstars of the past.
Think about his former mentor, ‘The Admiral’. People have long forgotten how great David Robinson truly was, and unfortunately the same will likely be true for Tim Duncan.
Duncan’s game lacks the pizazz to become timeless. Face it, the lay fan prefers no-look passes to 18-foot jump shots and game-securing rebounds.
I guess the whole point of this article boils down to this: consistency is boring. And because consistency is boring, the media has largely ignored one of the greatest basketball players of his generation. Tim Duncan never gives the media a bone to chew on, aside from reliably leading his team to 50-plus wins and deep playoff runs. It’s entirely possible that NBA fans will have as few as two more chances to watch Tim Duncan play. You might want to take this into consideration as you make plans for the coming week.
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