It's all about the fans!
‘I just hope to make a difference’’
This was the goal Tim Duncan set for his NBA career on draft night in the summer of 1997, minutes after the Spurs selected him first overall.
An amazing thing has happened since that night. As colossal as expectations were, a strong case can be made that Duncan has actually exceeded them. It’s nearly two decades later, and Duncan — his beard flecked with gray, nearly old enough to be teammate Kawhi Leonard’s father, the cartilage in his left knee long since ground away by nearly 1,500 career games — is still dominating.
Such was the case when he scored seven consecutive points in overtime in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals vs. Oklahoma City to carry the Spurs into the 2014 NBA Finals, where they would go on to win their fifth title.
“Outstanding, as always,” was Manu Ginobili’s assessment, and he might as well have been talking about Duncan’s entire career.
It would become the sixth time in franchise history the Spurs reached the championship round, all of which came on Duncan’s watch. With five NBA championships, and enough individual accolades for 10 players, Duncan can take satisfaction in fulfilling that simple objective he laid out all those years ago.
For he has most certainly made a difference.
(The following is an oral history, comprising quotes from throughout Duncan’s career. All sources are listed, when possible, with their job title at the time of their comments. Non-cited sources are from the Express-News.)
1. ORIGIN STORY
Duncan’s introduction to the sport at which he would excel so greatly has become the stuff of legends. A promising youth swimmer in his native St. Croix, Duncan was prevented from competing when his home pool was destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. There were only four indoor courts on the entire island at the time, and Duncan was no phenom when he first began to play in ninth grade. But he improved enough to a scholarship to flesh out the rest of Dave Odom’s 1993 recruiting class at Wake Forest.
Deborah Harrigan, Duncan’s fifth-grade teacher: “He just seemed to be very motivated. He really took his schooling very seriously. The big things in his life, obviously, were school and swimming.”
Debbie Sun, former swimming teammate: “I know he quickly excelled in the sport. He was younger, but he could hang with the older and faster guys. He was shy and timid, but he was always very composed.”
Tricia Duncan, sister: “The hurricane broke Tim’s routine by taking away our pool. Then when Mom passed, he lost his motivation.” (Sports Illustrated)
William Duncan, father (since deceased): “Our one regret is that she is not here. We just have to accept that in our lives. Timmy used to say that he could hear her even when he was under the water.”
Ricky Lowery, Tricia’s husband and Duncan’s brother in law to a young Tim: “Timmy, let’s shoot a few. How many swimmers do you see driving Porsches?” (Sports Illustrated)
Robert Malloy, high school teammate: “At first, he wouldn’t dunk. We’d have to get on him to dunk. Then he wouldn’t stop dunking.”
Cuthbert George, high school coach: “By the time he was a senior, he could really play. Against Camden (a rival high school), he just dominated those guys. The way I see it, the more competition he has, the better he gets. If there is competition, he will play up to it.”
Randolph Childress, Wake Forest teammate: “When Timmy came here, I heard stories from the coaches about how he was a project. One day I walk into the gym and see this tall guy who grabs a rebound, puts the ball between his legs, dribbles coast to coast and slams. I went to our coaches and told them, ‘Hey, there’s a tall kid in the gym doing some incredible things, and if he’s not Tim Duncan you better recruit him fast.’” (Sports Illustrated)
Duncan: “The game grew on me. I play every day and can’t wait to go out and play it again. I like relying on other people. It’s great to have the camaraderie and teammates to share the pressure with. It makes the game what it is. I started the game late, (but) I was blessed with the ability to learn. I had people around me who taught me. I’ve come far and I can go a lot further.”
If nobody knew who Duncan was upon his arrival at Wake Forest, that quickly changed. But even as his draft stock soared, Duncan insisted he would remain in college to get his degree. And he did exactly that, showing an uncommon simplicity even as he became one of the most decorated players in college basketball history. (One story has it that Odom had to talk Duncan into flying cross-country for the 1997 John Wooden Award ceremony in Los Angeles.)
Deborah Best, Wake Forest psychology department chairperson: “Tim was one of my more intellectual students. Other than his height, I couldn’t tell him from any other student at Wake Forest.” (Slam Duncan, Kevin Kernan)
Dave Twardzik, Golden State general manager after Duncan’s sophomore year at Wake Forest: “The No. 1 player is Tim Duncan. He’s the best in college. It’s not even close.”
Odom: “Tim was the afterthought of his class and he turned out to be the consensus player of the year. That is how far he’s come. There wasn’t a day he came to practice that he didn’t leave a better ballplayer. He’d go hard every day.”
“I’m sitting there thinking, If this kid is in the contiguous 48 states, there’d be a (recruiting) war going on.”
Dave Odom, Wake Forest coach on seeing Duncan at a pick-up game in St. Croix
Gregg Popovich, Spurs coach and general manager: “When it comes to the draft, I’m supposed to lie. We wouldn’t say what we would do, but Tim Duncan is the only guy who is close to being a franchise sort of player. There’s obviously a drop-off between him and everyone else, and everybody knows that.”
Rick Pitino, Boston coach: “When you get a Tim Duncan, you are getting something really, really special, not only as a basketball player, but with an incredible attitude. He uses the glass as well as any young player I’ve seen. You don’t see many young kids use it like he does. He’s just got the total package.”
Duncan on his stoic demeanor: “If you show excitement, then you also may show disappointment or frustration. If your opponent picks up on this frustration, you are at a disadvantage.” (Slam Duncan, Kevin Kernan)
Joe Smith, former Maryland player and the No. 1 pick in 1995: “Some people think he doesn’t care enough on the court. Don’t be fooled. He’s much more vicious than he looks.” (Sports Illustrated)
3. THE LOTTERY
There was zero question that Duncan was the top pick in 1997. The only drama was which franchise would have the privilege of taking him. Boston had the best chance of winning the lottery at 28 percent — odds good enough to entice Rick Pitino to leave the University of Kentucky for the mere chance of re-building the Celtics around Duncan. The Spurs, having fallen to 20-62 in an injury-plagued season, had slimmer odds at 22 percent.
Popovich: “We were in a big tent that was next to the studios and they called us to go sit in the stands. I didn’t go in because there was no way we had a chance to get the No. 1 pick. I just stayed in the tent where the food and the beer were. I’m the only guy in the tent. Everybody vacated.
“So I’m watching this little TV, eating a burger and drinking a beer and they get to the pick that was supposed to be us. But it was somebody else. I couldn’t believe it. I was so shocked that I literally dropped my hamburger on the ground. It was unbelievable. One of us was going to get Duncan.
“All these people come rushing in the tent, just rushing at me. They were congratulating me like I had done something. I didn’t do anything but eat a burger and they were rushing me telling me what a good job I had done.” (History of the Spurs, Jan Hubbard)
Doc Rivers, former Spurs point guard and TNT analyst: “Pop is the luckiest man alive.”
Brown: “When it came down to us and San Antonio, I thought to myself, this is a no-brainer. If we win, great. If San Antonio wins, it’s great for Pop. The guy was the best man at my wedding. Then, right after it was announced, I thought to myself, ‘I still love you, Pop.’ But man, what a letdown. There was such a drop-off after Duncan.” (Boston Globe)
Duncan: “I wasn’t really rooting for any team to get me. But I got up and ran around a little bit when San Antonio got me. I leaped a few couches. My brother (Lowery) had been saying San Antonio would win for months.”
“Whoever has a chance to draft him, they’ll be a contender — immediately.”
Larry Brown, Philadelphia 76ers coach
Jack Diller, Spurs team president: “It’s not supposed to work this way, really. A team with the talent we have is not supposed to win the lottery and add somebody like Duncan. But the injuries put us in there.”
Russ Bookbinder, Spurs vice president for business operations: “We’re getting calls from every front. It’s not just season-ticket people wanting to renew for next year. We’ve had season-ticket holders who want to add seats to their package. We’ve had people who used to have tickets coming back. We’ve had people who’ve never had tickets before.”
Jerry Reynolds, Sacramento general manager: “This will make them contenders for a world championship.”
Peter Holt, Spurs chairman: “If we’re healthy, we should win 50-plus games and be in the playoffs. And if Tim Duncan is all that we believe he is, you’ve got to believe he puts us in a league of our own.”
M.L. Carr, Boston director of corporate development: “As soon as (the lottery) was over, I get a call (from Pitino) telling me to ask Pop if he’ll trade the No. 1 pick for the No. 3 and No. 6 picks. Pop was very gracious. He said he thought he’d probably hold onto the pick. Can you imagine having to make that request? We’d have had to give them the right to all future picks and he still probably wouldn’t have done it.” (Boston Globe)
David Stern, NBA commissioner: “Duncan-Robinson. Sounds interesting.”
4. DUNCAN DELIVERS
“Can’t teach that!” Such was Sean Elliott’s giddy declaration to Vinny Del Negro upon watching Duncan shine in a pick-up game at Incarnate Word before Duncan’s rookie season. Little more than two years later, Duncan was leading the Spurs to their first championship over the Knicks in 1999, blending seamlessly with fellow 7-footer David Robinson to anchor one of the most potent defensive frontlines in NBA history.
Charles Barkley, Houston All-Star after preseason game in Duncan’s rookie season: “I’ve seen the future and he wears No. 21. I didn’t know he had that type of game. He was much better than I expected.”
Duncan: “It’s a lot different than college. It’s all basketball. I’m just trying to deal with that as it goes. I know there’s going to be a point in the season when it’s going to be too much. Maybe down the road I’ll be able to take it easier and find a way to get around it. But right now, I’m just playing game to game and trying to survive.”
Michael Jordan, soon-to-be five-time MVP: “I can see why he went No. 1. He has a lot of talent. He’s matured. He’s blossomed. He stayed those four years in college and his dividend is starting to show. Rookie of the Year is a (lock). And certainly he should be in contention for MVP, without a doubt.” (Dallas Morning News)
George Karl, Seattle coach: “He’s the best rookie I’ve ever seen.”
Duncan, at the Rookie of the Year press conference (decked out, of course, in a t-shirt): “Do I give a speech or something?”
Popovich: “He’ll improve in a lot of ways, because he’s a guy like Magic Johnson, who wants to add to his game. I think Tim will do the same thing. Nobody thought Magic would be able to shoot a 3-point shot. Tim’s got the same sort of competitive spirit. He wants to be the best.”
Robinson, Spurs teammate on altering his role to accommodate Duncan: “That was tough coming from a position where you shoot a lot. But with Tim’s talents, you would be stupid not to let him go. The boy can really play. If I shot more than 12 times a game, I could, yes (average 25 points a game). But that’s all about ego. Now it’s about winning. You’ve got to decide what’s going to make your team the best and then go for it.”
Jeff Van Gundy, New York coach after 1999 Finals: “He’s obviously the best player in the NBA. Not just because of his skill level. I think it’s his maturity and knowledge of the game. You can just watch a guy play and know if he’s truly into winning or not. That guy’s truly into winning. To me, he’s not only the best player, but he’s somebody that obviously San Antonio is going to have for a long time and be able to build around because of his unselfishness.”
Duncan after 1999 Finals: “It’s a blessing to do what we did, and there’s no guarantee we’ll ever get back here.”
5. ‘ON PINS AND NEEDLES’
With salaries exploding in the late 1990s and superstars like Shaquille O’Neal spurning small markets for big, local fans were fretting about the Spurs’ chances of retaining Duncan beyond his rookie contract before he played a single game. Those fears were manifested in the summer of 2000, when Duncan seriously considered leaving the Spurs via free agency to start anew in Orlando. It took an 11th-hour pitch, with Robinson cutting his vacation short to participate, to convince Duncan the Spurs could rebuild their aging roster.
Popovich: “I don’t try to sell Tim on anything. That’s an impossibility. Tim makes his own decisions. I have absolutely no doubt that his criteria will be mature, that his decision will be made about basketball, not about fluff. Tim Duncan already knows what we are. For me to put on a show would be clownish.”
Woman at Orlando airport on the Magic’s free agent target: “From what I hear, it’s Sha-quweeel something.”
Andrea Sider, Orlando resident after encounter with Duncan: “He apologized for dropping a pen. That’s so polite. So, from all the mothers in Orlando: ‘We want you, Tim.’ ”
Lon Babby, Duncan’s agent after radio reports that Duncan had switched his prescriptions over to an Orlando-area pharmacy: “Great, now he’s on drugs.”
Doc Rivers, Orlando coach: “I thought the weekend went well for us. The weekend went really well. We not only sold Orlando, which is an easy sell, we also sold who we are.”
Holt: “We’re going to tell him all the great things we can do. (Rivers) is telling him all the great things they can do. It’s going to come down to which team he believes will be a winner.”
Anonymous Spurs source after Orlando pitch: “We still have a few bullets left in our gun.”
Jeff Austin, Robinson’s agent: “It’s important to David that Tim stay in San Antonio. That’s the clearly the message of his trip. Our understanding is Tim is undecided. So before Tim makes his decision, David wants to do his best to make him stay. David wants to do everything he can to help convince Tim to remain a Spur.”
Malik Rose, Philadelphia color analyst and former Spurs teammate: “I would say he came pretty close (to leaving). Pop was pretty much walking on eggshells. He was upset with our agent, Lon Babby, because he thought (Babby) was putting something together to send Tim and Grant to Orlando (together). I heard he was going, and then it changed at the last minute and he was staying.” (ESPN.com)
Elliott: “I talked to Tim right before he left (for Orlando) and, to be honest, I started to think he wasn’t coming back. But I’m glad he’s staying. I just think it was the right thing for him to do.”
Duncan: “I was in and I was out. When I went down and saw what they had to offer, it made my decision a lot harder. I’m glad the process is over. I just hope that people will stop following me.”
Duncan’s strong relationship with Popovich, the gruff coach who never shied from calling out his superstar when necessary, was cited as a key reason why Duncan stayed. Their bond only grew stronger in the years that followed, forming one of the most indelible coach/player partnerships in NBA history. Separated by years, race and background, the two have nonetheless been virtual clones with their shared sense of humor, dislike of the spotlight and a singular focus on the task at hand.
Duncan to a reporter, rifling through Popovich’s unattended wallet at practice in 1999: “Need any extra cash? Plastic?”
Popovich in 2013: “Timmy’s a pain in the ass, and I’m tired of coaching him. Anybody else (have questions)? Good. Have a good day.”
Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta coach and former Spurs assistant: “(Popovich) coaches Timmy very hard. There are high standards, high expectations, and Timmy doesn’t always meet them, as great a player as he is. So sometimes they get pissy and stop talking, but there’s always a very deep understanding there.” (ESPN.com)
Jacque Vaughn, Orlando coach and former Spurs teammate: “I’m not sure if you’ll see it again, just because of the dynamics of the NBA. Those are two Hall of Famers over there, and they found a way to diminish their egos for the chance to win.”
Brett Brown, Spurs assistant: “(Popovich) calls timeout, grabs a chair, puts it right in front of Tim and just goes after him. And I’m sitting there thinking, ‘OK, I just got here, this is my first year. I really don’t want to move again, but it looks like we’re going to end up moving again. Because I will no longer have a job after this game.’
“Your perception is that if you go after your superstar like that in front of everybody, you think there’s going to be a strained relationship between the coach and the best player. And it was far from it. With the rest of the guys watching Pop coach the way he did, they knew that, Hey, if you’re the third-best player or the seventh-best player, you’d better be able to take it because the No. 1 player on the team did, and he took it like a pro.” (ESPN.com)
“I was bouncing off the walls, if the truth be known. He loves to (mess) with me. The guy just loves to see me twist.”
Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs coach
R.C. Buford, Spurs general manager: “I think this term is often overused, but there are very few relationships where the relationship between player and coach can be described as a real soul mate. But we’ve been fortunate enough that Pop and Tim are connected that way. When things are tough, they’ve got that. That’s their rock.” (New York Times)
Bill Walton, NBA Hall of Famer: “It’s a special relationship that is a model for what the world can be.”
Kobe Bryant, Lakers All-Star: “(Duncan’s) got an incredible situation. His relationship with Popovich and R.C. (Buford) and all the guys, it’s first-class stuff, man. First-class stuff.”
Brent Barry, former Spurs teammate: “You have two sets of eyes on you as you’re finishing off the task at hand. You have the coach, but then you have the coach’s first son. Your older brother. Kind of the man of the house with Dad’s car. And Tim is watching over and kind of quietly assessing what you’re doing, and nothing really needs to be said.” (ESPN.com)
Popovich in 2014: “Every time I walk around the house, once a month, I tell my wife, ‘Say thank you, Tim.’ Before you start handing out applause and credit to anyone else in this organization for anything that’s been accomplished, remember it all starts with and goes through Timmy. As soon as he (retires), I’ll be 10 steps behind. Because I’m not stupid.”
Monty Williams, New Orleans coach and former Spurs teammate: “I mean, Pop and I are friends. Just imagine how close he and Tim are. I don’t see how the game of basketball will bring an end to that. I think those guys will be friends until they’re dead.” (ESPN.com)
Duncan was great before re-signing with the Spurs. In the seasons that followed he established himself as one of the greatest ever, surpassing the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant to win consecutive MVP awards in 2002 and 2003. He followed the latter award with one of the best individual playoff runs in NBA history, averaging 24.7 points, 15.4 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 3.3 blocks to lead the Spurs to their second championship. The achievement was bittersweet, however, as it marked the end of his partnership with Robinson.
Elliott: “You can look at his stats, but I don’t think that really tells the story what Tim Duncan means to this team, this franchise, this city. He’s more than that. This guy encompasses everything that you want in an MVP. I’ve never been more impressed watching a guy every day and playing with a guy more so than I have been with Tim Duncan. He plays with class, with dignity every game.”
Speedy Claxton, Spurs teammate after Duncan’s triple-double in March 2003: “He’s the best player in the league. Once you start watching him a lot, you learn to appreciate his game even more.”
Anonymous Spurs staffer stating Duncan’s case in the 2003 MVP race: “Stephen Jackson’s our second-best player. And the Nets cut him.” (Chicago Tribune)
Isiah Thomas, New York coach: “The athleticism they’ve added around him definitely helps but the guy is just so good. I think he helps them more than they help him.”
“I think those guys will be friends until they’re dead.”
Monty Williams, on the Tim Duncan-Gregg Popovich bond
Rose in 2003: “He’s carried us. Just like he always does.”
Duncan, after hearing his stat line in the sixth and final game of the 2003 Finals — 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and eight blocks: “That’s cool.”
Steve Kerr, Spurs teammate after Game 6: “I told him he was incredible. Nothing else needed to be said.”
Danny Ferry, Spurs teammate on Duncan’s 2003 playoffs: “He was just unbelievable. This has to confirm him as one of the greatest players of all time.”
Robinson after Game 6: “We just always expect a great, great game from him and he just delivered time and time again. He carried us through almost every time. We just had to provide the help for him.”
Duncan after Game 6: “For a second there on the court, the last couple of seconds, I really thought, ‘You know what, I’m not going to play with (Robinson) again. I’m going to have to come out on this court without him. It’s going to be weird.’ I don’t know what to expect.”
8. LOS TRES GRANDES
Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan have won four championships together. They have also been in more playoff games together than any other trio in NBA history. (Express-News)
Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker were already in place for the 2003 championship. But Robinson’s retirement marked the end of an era, opening up the door for the flashy young foreigners — gems taken 57th in 1999 and 28th in 2001, respectively — to expand their games and give Duncan an opportunity to compete for more.
Popovich on draft night 1999: “(Ginobili) comes off picks and screens well and shoots quickly. He has a lot of tools we can work with.”
Parker on draft night 2001: “My job will be easy. I’ve watched a lot of Spurs games. I’ll pass the ball to Duncan and Robinson.”
Mark Fleischer, Parker’s agent: “As soon as Tony finished his workout in San Antonio, he called and told me that was where he wanted to play. I told him it might not happen. He said, ‘Is there anything I can do to make sure I can get here?’ ”
Duncan in 2010: “I think it’s pretty well documented that I wasn’t too sure about what to expect from (Parker). With his age, with his inexperience, with his lack of knowledge of the language … all those things went into it. I think it was the same thing, on a different level with (Ginobili). With French Boy, it was about him being, whatever, 13 years old and asking him to start for a team that’s been doing pretty good. With Crazy Boy (Ginobili), it was just getting used to playing with someone like that, taking some of the shots that he does.”
Duncan, in same interview on whether he anticipated transitioning so easily after ’03 title with Parker and Ginobili: “No. I was thinking if we can get better players than this, it would be easier next time.”
Ginobili on the trio’s chemistry: “It just happened. The most important part was just not be selfish. Try to play for a system. Don’t let our egos be more important than the final goal and just try to adjust to play with each other. I think that was the secret. Then, the system was about Pop to make us all fit and have our moments. It was a combination of everybody trying to do well and create what we created.”
Matt Bonner, Spurs teammate on the trio’s shared longevity: “It’s so unique, special, awesome … pick up a thesaurus and insert superlative there. It’s just a really neat, unique thing in professional sports. I consider myself incredibly lucky to be a little part of it.”
Parker: “I always say if we did what we did in New York, we’d be gods right now.”
9. EDUCATED OPINIONS
Perhaps the only thing more consistent than Duncan himself is the near universal respect he’s earned among teammates, opponents and former players. Indeed, outside of long-time rival Kevin Garnett, it’s hard to find anyone with less than glowing praise for the Big Fundamental.
John “Hot Rod” Williams, Phoenix forward: “I’ve been in the league 13 years, and I haven’t seen nobody else play on the block like he does. He plays on the left block, the right block, he can drive the ball and use his left hand, right hand. He shoots the jump shot, passes the ball — everything.”
Shaquille O’Neal, former rival: “The Spurs won because of Tim Duncan, a guy I could never break. I could talk trash to Patrick Ewing, get in David Robinson’s face, get a rise out of Alonzo Mourning, but when I went at Tim he’d look at me like he was bored. Whenever I run into a Tim Duncan fan who will claim Tim Duncan is the GOAT, I won’t disagree with him.” (Shaq Uncut)
Dikembe Mutombo, Philadelphia center: “You cannot compare Shaq to Tim. They do not have a similar game. Shaq’s got a dunking game. Tim’s got a package.”
Byron Scott, New Orleans coach: “He’s not throwing behind-the-back passes, he’s not doing tomahawk jams, he’s not doing anything that’s very flashy. He’s just a very unassuming guy who goes about his job, and the next thing you know he’s got 23 points and 20 rebounds.”
Eduardo Najera, Dallas forward on Duncan’s weaknesses: “All you can say is that he’s not a great 3-point shooter.” (Sports Illustrated)
Avery Johnson, Dallas coach and former Spurs teammate: “If Tim starts making 3s, we can all go home.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, NBA Hall of Famer: “The big man that I think has been the best of this generation is Tim Duncan. He gets the job done, night in and night out. He’s versatile, totally able to do the things his team needs him to do to win. Nothing is lacking in his game.” (NBA.com)
Karl Malone, NBA Hall of Famer: “My all-time favorite is still Tim Duncan. He just plays. He’s old, but he’s been playing like that now for 15 years. He don’t care about what he’s worth to the game or what you think about it. He just play.” (Deseret News)
Jerry West, NBA Hall of Famer: “When I look at him, I see nothing but greatness.”
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas All-Star: “I wish I had his four or five championships, however many he’s got. He was unstoppable. He’s probably the best power forward ever to play this game. He had it all.” (Dallas Morning News)
LeBron James, four-time MVP: “Probably one of the best players to ever play the game of basketball. If I just look at the last 15 years, he’s probably been the most consistent, most dominant player that we’ve had as far as 15 years all together. He’s won (five) titles, multiple All-Stars, MVP, and so on and so on.”
Bill Russell, NBA Hall of Famer speaking to Duncan in 2009: “We have so much in common. I feel very flattered (to be compared with you). You’ve played hard, played smart, won championships. And I don’t think you’re done with that.” (NBA.com video)
10. AGING GRACEFULLY
Duncan always figured to age well, what with his emphasis on skill over athletic ability. But the end appeared to be nearing after Duncan, hindered by a degenerative condition in his left knee, suffered through the worst season of his career to that point in 2010-11. Rather than succumb, Duncan redoubled his efforts, dropping roughly 25 pounds to take strain off the joint in the coming seasons. Popovich helped his star with regular nights off, even when Duncan resisted. While no longer the monster he once was, Duncan remained effective at an age when all but a few were either retired or shells of themselves.
Spurs lineup card, citing Duncan’s absence from 2012 game with Philadelphia: “DNP — Old”
Duncan on Popovich’s rest regimen: “I never fight him. You lose every time.”
Robinson, 2013: “When he came in, every once in a while I’d have to warm up a little longer than him, and he’d tell me how much of an old man I was. I’d have to go ice my knees down and jump in the hot tub. He’s experiencing some of those…pains.” (Associated Press)
Stephen Jackson, Spurs teammate: “The good thing about Tim, his love for the game doesn’t go anywhere. The older he gets, the more he dedicates himself to the game.”
Erik Spoelstra, Miami coach: “He’s been knocking the crap out of Father Time, toe to toe. He’s remarkable. His game is timeless. It isn’t just the fountain of youth. I’m sure he’s disciplined with everything: Nutrition, training, conditioning. That cannot be just luck. He has to be putting in a lot of time. His body looks great. He looks youthful.”
Chris Bosh, Miami forward: “I don’t know how he does it. He’s just like a timeless clock.”
Duncan’s final game: May 12, 2016: Game 6 loss in Western Conference semifinals at Oklahoma City. His stat line: 19 points (7 of 14 from the field, 5 of 6 from foul line), 5 rebounds, 1 blocked shot in 34 minutes, 25 seconds.
Duncan post-game on his future: “I’ll get to that after I get out of here and figure life out.”
“When I look at him, I see nothing but greatness.”
Jerry West, NBA Hall of Famer