Tim Duncan stoically spent 19 basically sound seasons permitting his play to talk for him.
Nineteen playoff appearances. Fifteen All-Star choices. 5 championships. 5 complete Most Beneficial Participant Awards, three within the finals, two within the common season. And this week, he’ll be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in a heralded class alongside Kevin Garnett and the late Kobe Bryant.
“You all the time get the query: What would you alter? What would you do otherwise?” Duncan mentioned in a video launched by the Corridor of Fame after his choice was introduced final yr. “Actually, I don’t assume there’s a change I’d do otherwise.”
Duncan’s journey was certainly one of happenstance and perseverance. He grew up a proficient swimmer in St. Croix and left the game when Hurricane Hugo devastated the island in 1989, destroying the pool the place he competed. He began enjoying basketball within the ninth grade, setting him on a path to Wake Forest College, San Antonio and, now, Springfield, Mass.
The New York Occasions requested a bunch of his mates, academics, teammates and coaches to talk about his journey.
Chris King (Wake Forest, males’s basketball, 1988-92): We had a bunch of fellows that performed within the N.B.A. they wished to take right down to the Virgin Islands as a result of there was numerous violence happening on the time.
The group of fellows that we had was myself, Alonzo Mourning and Mark Tillmon from Georgetown, and we performed video games towards guys from the islands.
The blokes have been on the point of play one night time and the entire place was packed. Right here comes this skinny child, walks within the health club — I didn’t know who he was — named Tim Duncan.
That was the primary time I ever laid eyes on him.
The very first thing I seen about him was he had one thing that I had developed in highschool: He might use the glass. I used to be very impressed.
Dave Odom (Duncan’s coach at Wake Forest): [King] got here again early in September and was strolling by my workplace and I simply hollered at him: “Chris, are available right here. I need to speak to you. Inform me about your journey.”
King: I mentioned, “There was this child down there.”
Odom: And I mentioned: “Effectively, who was he? What was his title?”
He mentioned, “I don’t know.”
I mentioned, “Effectively, what island was he on?”
“I don’t know.”
So, he didn’t give me so much aside from there was a child who had some ability. There was a coach on my employees on the time, Larry Davis, and he had coached a child from the islands, possibly even St. Croix.
He got here again the subsequent day in our employees assembly and threw Tim Duncan’s title on the desk and mentioned, “Coach, that is the child.”
Odom was bought on Duncan after a visit to St. Croix. Wake Forest went 97-31 in his 4 years and completed 26-6 in two of these seasons, 1994-95 and 1995-96.
Randolph Childress (Duncan’s teammate at Wake Forest): It was a chilly slushy, wet day outdoors, and he didn’t have a jacket. So, he pulled his arms contained in the quick sleeve shirt and simply walked round. That was my first picture of him. So, I simply thought: “Wow, this child doesn’t have a coat. This skinny child, is he going to have the ability to assist us?”
I noticed him play. After which I assumed, “OK, he can positively assist us.”
Tracy Connor-Riddick (Wake Forest Sports activities Corridor of Famer for ladies’s basketball and Duncan’s longtime good friend): The primary time I met him, he was within the cafeteria space and he simply seemed misplaced to me. So, I simply went as much as him and I requested him if there was something I might assist him with, and since my nation accent was so robust, he couldn’t perceive me and I couldn’t perceive him. And I assumed, huh, this isn’t going effectively.
Odom: We performed him towards Vanderbilt. He scored one thing like 9 factors and had 5 or 6 blocks and doubtless virtually 10 rebounds. And it was at that time, I’m speaking to my employees, I’m saying, “We would need to take a look at this child a little bit extra intently and let’s see which method this factor takes us.”
Deborah Finest (chairman of the Wake Forest psychology division and Duncan’s tutorial adviser): They have been enjoying on a Sunday afternoon sport, and my son and husband and I sat and watched the sport on tv and there was Tim enjoying. Later that night, I had to enter our constructing to get one thing out of my workplace.
This was again within the day once we had pc labs and I needed to stroll previous the pc lab and the door was opened and I assumed, Oh. Who’s in there? I leaned in and it was Tim. I mentioned, “You have been simply on TV.”
He says, “Yeah, I’ve received a analysis strategies lab report due tomorrow.”
As a senior, Duncan received the boys’s basketball John Wood Award, given to the nation’s most excellent participant. The Spurs additionally landed the highest total choose within the draft lottery.
Sean Elliott (Spurs teammate, 1997-2001, present Spurs tv analyst): Again once we received the lottery, I used to be at dwelling watching it and I swear, I might really feel the bottom bodily shake.
Avery Johnson (Spurs teammate, 1997-2001): I’ll always remember watching the lottery with my spouse and children. We have been positioned to be the fourth choose and boy, when our title wasn’t referred to as, my coronary heart simply began beating quick.
Elliott: One minute later, Avery Johnson referred to as me and he mentioned, “We’re again.” And that is once we simply received the lottery, so we knew we have been going to draft Tim. It was a no brainer.
Mike Budenholzer (Spurs assistant coach, 1996-2013. Present head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks): You’ve gotten these issues, The place have been you when this occurred? What have been you doing? It is likely to be the one factor in my life the place I can let you know precisely the place I used to be and precisely what I did and simply how impactful it was.
Elliott: The primary time I met Tim, he came to visit to the home. I had these large video video games there that I used to play, it was Mortal Kombat. I used to beat up on the neighborhood youngsters. I used to be just like the grasp.
Tim, he got here in and he’s like, “Oh, what’s this?”
I mentioned, “Oh, yeah, come on over right here,” considering I used to be going to provide him a whooping. He proceeded to completely annihilate me. And it was the primary time he had performed the sport and I simply couldn’t perceive it.
Outwardly, I used to be very gracious, however in my thoughts, I couldn’t consider it. So what struck me about him is that it has been confirmed time and time once more, he’s the kind of man, you will be doing it your complete life and also you present it to him and in 5 or 10 minutes, he’s really higher than you might be.
Tim Duncan and David Robinson blended harmoniously, guiding the Spurs to the franchise’s first two titles in 1999 and 2003. “Tim, he’s a humble man,” Robinson told TNT’s Ernie Johnson. “I all the time thought I used to be form of quiet, and Tim made me really feel like I used to be loud.”
Elliott: David wasn’t threatened by Timmy. Whereas numerous franchise gamers in David’s place, they might possibly have some animosity or resentment towards the brand new No. 1 choose coming in, the brand new franchise-type participant. However David wasn’t like that.
Timmy got here in with numerous humility too. He wasn’t coming in like he was a giant shot. He was keen to study from everyone, and guys can sense that within the locker room.
James Borrego (Spurs video coordinator/ assistant coach, 2003-10 and 2015-18, Present head coach of the Charlotte Hornets): What was so shocking to me was one of many first few days of that summer time, he invitations me to play pickup. We’re coming again, he doesn’t know my title. He simply is aware of I’ve been employed to be within the video room.
He goes, “You’re in.”
He places me in a sport to play five-on-five with the group. That day, the best way he made me really feel welcomed and cozy in his house, in his facility, that’s after I knew he was totally different.
Speedy Claxton (Spurs teammate 2002-3): All people is aware of Tim was an ideal man, however he’s a humorous man as effectively, and likes to have enjoyable. I keep in mind after I first received there, the primary day we labored out as a crew, we performed pickup. After that, he received all of us to go play paintball collectively, as a result of Tim was a giant paint baller.
However he was an ideal teammate. He was all the time encouraging. Regardless of in the event you missed two or three pictures in a row, he’ll get the double-team and he’ll nonetheless kick it out to you irrespective of in the event you missed three pictures in a row and let you know to shoot the ball each time you’re open.
Gregg Popovich (Spurs Coach, 1996-present): It wasn’t like an eight-footer or 10-footer. He did it from 18 to twenty ft, and his footwork was nice, and he knew the best way to land it on the backboard. It was a rarity, it nonetheless is as a matter of truth, however that was his first signature transfer that I believe everyone realized there was in all probability one thing fairly particular about this man.
Antonio Daniels (Spurs teammate, 1998-2002): Tim Duncan on that field was completely unstoppable. I keep in mind sitting on a bench watching like, that is his second yr, like: This dude is unimaginable. He’s unimaginable.
He was capable of do it with such a stoic mannerism. No smile, no trash speak, no nothing. Simply exit and put up 30 and 15, 40 and 12. Prefer it was nothing, so environment friendly. Simply footwork and fundamentals.
He couldn’t bounce over a chunk of paper, however he couldn’t be defended.
The Spurs have been on the precipice of successful a championship in 2013 in Sport 6 of the finals earlier than Ray Allen’s dagger 3-pointer for the Miami Warmth. Duncan had 24 factors and 12 rebounds within the deciding sport, however misfired on the free-throw line within the clutch. It was certainly one of a number of heartbreaks for San Antonio.
Borrego: We all the time felt like we had a shot due to 21.
He didn’t must say something. We simply knew it and you can really feel it. It was his confidence, his spirit, his fireplace, and his focus that all of us drew from. That was clearly a devastating shot [from Allen], a troublesome second for all of us.
Steve Kerr (Spurs teammate, 1998-2001, present head coach of the Golden State Warriors): I’m watching all these video games on N.B.A. TV and Sport 7 of the 2005 finals got here on, the Detroit, San Antonio [series]. I began texting Tim.
I had retired already, however I texted one thing like, “Watching Sport 7, I’m nervous.”
That’s how these Sport 7s are. And his instant response was, “I used to be so dangerous in that sport.”
In the meantime, he’s dominating the sport and it might not have been his greatest sport statistically or something, however the Spurs have been throwing him the ball on the block each single time. And Detroit had to reply to that. The entire sport was going via him and typical Tim, he lamented in his texts that he had a awful sport. And that was Tim. After we have been enjoying collectively, he’d are available after a loss and he’d be like, “That’s my fault guys.” And also you’d take a look at the field rating, he’d have 30 and 17 and 6 blocks.
George Karl (Opposed Duncan, whereas teaching the Seattle SuperSonics, Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets and Sacramento Kings): He was a “we” participant, so Tim Duncan can be joyful getting 15 factors and 10 rebounds. Tim was by no means going out to get 35 or 40 [points]. He was simply going out to beat you and so the sport plan was attempting to disrupt their offensive effectivity greater than anything.
It’s not one particular person. It was how do you make them not make pictures? As a result of they received the perfect pictures in basketball for over 10 years. Their shot choice was impeccable and numerous that was due to Popovich, however numerous that was additionally due to Duncan, after which [Manu] Ginobili and [Tony] Parker can be in there and so they have been all the time on the identical web page. They by no means might be disrupted from a standpoint of sport plan.
Duncan and Popovich bonded on and off the courtroom. “We’re extra soul mates in life than we’re in basketball,” Popovich told reporters main as much as Duncan’s jersey retirement ceremony in 2016.
Brett Brown (Spurs teaching employees, 2002-13): It was virtually a ritual the place at halftime, he’d come out from the locker room and Pop, he’d exit sooner than us. Timmy can be sitting on the bench and Pop would simply go sit down with him.
As I keep in mind it, oftentimes nothing was mentioned. Typically, they’d share a remark, however it gave the impression to be only a ritual that the 2 would meet each halftime on the bench.
And what was mentioned?
I don’t know.
Popovich: Any coach who has their greatest participant as a frontrunner who’s revered by everyone and who can deal with criticism makes the job a lot simpler, so I used to be very lucky in that regard.
Duncan introduced his retirement in the summertime of 2016, via a crew information launch. Over his 19 seasons, San Antonio went 1,072-438 in regular-season video games, the perfect successful proportion over that point amongst all N.B.A., N.F.L., N.H.L. and M.L.B. franchises.
Daniels: I keep in mind saying this on nationwide radio and Spurs followers killed me for it. I mentioned, “The second Tim Duncan walks out that door, the tradition goes to stroll out with him.”
You hear individuals say on a regular basis and I believe it’s essentially the most overused cliché assertion in sports activities, “I’m keen to do no matter it takes to win the championship.” And what’s lacking on the finish of that sentence is “except.” “Until I can’t get the minutes I need, except I don’t get the contract I need, except I don’t get the position that I need.” Tim Duncan really took the “I’m keen to do no matter it takes to win a championship” and lived by it.