Every so often, a player, a city and a coach create an unbreakable bond that transcends generations creates a dynasty in the process.
Not the type of “dynasty” that we see in today’s NBA, where you have four successful years and are already branded with the label. But a genuine dynasty, one that finds itself atop the mountain time and time again despite the everchanging style of play in the NBA.
I’m of course referring to Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich, the San Antonio Spurs, and what seems to be the match made in heaven.
Duncan seemed like he was destined to be a Spur, as the team’s legendary center David Robinson missed all of the 1996-97′ season. As a result, the Spurs used their number one overall pick to select the kid from Wake Forest, and the rest is history.
By his second season, Timmy had already become the best player on a championship team, capping off a spectacular sophomore campaign by posting an absurd 27 points and 14 rebounds in the Finals en route to his first championship.
His rise to stardom only escalated from there, winning the MVP award in both 2002 and 2003, and capping off the ladder season with yet another monumental Finals performance, averaging a mammoth 24 points and 17 rebounds, capturing his second Finals MVP in the process.
2003 marked the end of the road for David Robinson, but thanks to Duncan, San Antonio kept on winning.
An almost fluke shot from Derek Fisher in the Western Conference Finals erased what would’ve been a historically great (almost) game-winner from Duncan, and prevented San Antonio from reaching the Finals once again.
But the Spurs came back with a vengeance in the years following, capturing the title in both 2005 and 2007, with Duncan being a key figure in both wins, winning Finals MVP in one of them.
The next few years marked a transition period, with Father Time catching up with some of the Spurs, most notably Manu Ginobili.
They still made the playoffs every year from 2008-2012, and even made the Conference Finals in two of those years, but another trip to the Finals eluded them.
The years of Tim Duncan being a superstar with the ability to carry a team were long gone, but here’s where he really showed us just how unselfish of a player he was.
Kawhi Leonard’s rise to stardom marked the passing of torch, and rather than being reluctant to take a back seat like other star players of the past (cough cough Kobe Bryant), Duncan adjusted his game so that he was still very effective in his limited touches, and protected the rim like nobody’s business.
This led to him putting up 18 points and 10 rebounds per game in limited minutes during his age 37 season, and only a Ray Allen miracle shot prevented him from capturing his 5th ring and 4th Finals MVP.
But the Spurs were back the following season, and finished off their 17th straight trip to the playoffs with the most dominating Finals performance ever over the same Miami Heat team that had beaten them the previous season. Rising superstar and new face of the Spurs Kawhi Leonard won the Most Valuable Player of the Finals.
Duncan’s minutes and production took a real hit after that, and it looked as though Father Time had finally caught up to him in the 2015-16′ season.
The once elite defender was beginning to look too slow for the pace of the current NBA.
But he went out the only way he knew how; putting everything on the line to win, but in the end it wasn’t enough, as the Spurs fell to the Thunder in Game 6 at Chesapeake Energy Arena, and Duncan walked off the court one last time to a standing ovation from the away crowd (skip to 1:44).
That’s a career worthy of a season-long farewell, Kobe Bryant style.
But that’s not how Duncan operates. Somehow, someway, Duncan made sure the his awe-inspiring career, for the most part, stayed out of the headlines.
While everybody was infatuated with the quickening pace and flashy passes of the other superstars, Duncan quietly went about his business, winning five championships along the way, his game built on perfecting the fundamentals.
He’s done so much for the game of basketball that it’s almost criminal that he doesn’t get as much recognition as other the greats of the past. But that’s just how he likes it.