Five championships, two MVPs, three Finals MVPs, and so much more, all over 19 seasons with one organization. You’ve probably guessed it by now – I’m talking about Tim Duncan.
Timmy is arguably the best power forward we’ve ever seen. I’m sure most will put his name on top of that list as well. He’s without the doubt the most underrated superstar in league’s history. Duncan was never the flashiest nor the most marketable one. But honestly, he didn’t need to be, as long as he delivered on the court. And very few did it better than The Big Fundamental.
Spurs’ fans will tell you that their favorite Tim Duncan trait was his loyalty. Staying with one team for as long as Tim did is a rarity in today’s climate. He is among the last of its breed. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see a player doing it in the near future. The NBA landscape has changed too much.
Say what you want, but Duncan and the Spurs were a match made in heaven from day one. There was never really a need for Timmy to go elsewhere. Coach Pop had a lot to do with it. In fact, everyone involved with the organization did. But Popovich was the father figure everyone gravitated to – Duncan included.
“No, I don’t really enjoy him very much. It was pretty much a one-way street. I was a great guy, and he was a pain in the ass.”Gregg Popovich
Typical Pop. The two had a special relationship and will forever be regarded as one of the best coach-player combos ever. It’s a result of two unique individuals developing a family-like bond. And that’s what the Spurs were all about, and that’s why the fit with Duncan was seamless because the loyalty thing goes way back with him.
The defining moment for Duncan happened when he was about to turn 14. He went through an experience no one ever wants to deal with, as his mother had passed away. What was a turning point in Duncan’s life, also became one for his basketball career, as he gave his mother a promise that would steer him on a much different path as a basketball player. He and his sister promised her they would both go to college and get their degrees. It doesn’t sound like an extreme possible change of events, but hear me out.
Duncan went to Wake Forrest, and it took him a year to properly showcase his talent. As a sophomore, he was already regarded as one of the best prospects among the eligible for the NBA. Jerry West, who was the GM for the LA Lakers at the time, believed that Duncan could’ve gone first overall if he’d declared for the ’95 NBA Draft. But Duncan stayed true to his word and decided to keep the promise he had given to his mother, as he attained his college degree, and got drafted no.1 by the Spurs in the ’97 NBA Draft.
Duncan filling out the draft application in any other year other than ’97 would’ve meant him not going to the Spurs. There’s a considerable pool of teams he could’ve ended up with, but the Spurs would’ve been out of the picture. Because believe it or not, the Spurs’ 96-97 season was an anomaly in and of itself. They weren’t used to picking high in the draft. But something happened that year. Something that changed the course of the whole franchise. David Robinson, the organization’s best player, went down with an injury, causing him to sit out the entire season. It ended up being the blessing in disguise for San Antonio, as it enabled them to take The Big Fundamental first overall.
You all know the story; they never missed the post-season after taking the big guy from Wake Forrest, and had won 50+ games each year he was on the roster, except from the lockout-shortened season of 98-99. Duncan played a crucial role in their five title runs, and was a centerpiece of one of the most long-lived dynasties ever, and all because of the promise he had given right before his 14th birthday.
Duncan is the epitome of loyalty in NBA circles, and it’s the value deep-rooted in him from the time he was a kid. We’ve seen how staying true to his words directly impacted his NBA career, but it’s not the only thing it did. Loyalty became a part of his character and is, without a doubt, the trait that he transferred to the NBA.
That’s why it was never about leaving for Timmy. It was about being loyal. First to his mother’s wish, and after that to the organization that drafted him and treated him like family. That’s what mattered the most for Duncan – staying loyal to his family.