Although he is arguably the best power forward in the history of the NBA, Tim Duncan never let his greatness feed his ego. Through 19 seasons in the league, he earned a reputation for being grounded and allowing legendary coach Gregg Popovich to guide him, even if it meant receiving an earful from time to time. A Spurs coach even once questioned some players' audacity to complain when someone as renowned as Duncan could handle Popovich's obscenities.
"How could a guy like Stephen Jackson complain when Pop was motherf------ Tim every day?" said the coach in 2012.
Was it a shade thrown at Stack?
It's interesting that the coach would mention the enigmatic Jackson in his praise of "The Big Fundamental." But it's not surprising at all, considering how the retired wing's tenures with the Spurs ended up.
In his first stint in San Antonio from 2001 to 2003, "Stack" wasn't given a huge role, although he won a ring in his second season there. But he left the team because he felt the front office was lowballing him. In addition, he also recently accused Popovich of favouring only the Big 3 of Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili.
As it turned out, Jackson eventually made a return to the Spurs in 2012, although it probably wasn't his choice because it was a trade that sent him packing to San Antonio. His second time with the organization didn't last that long again after the front office waived him right before the end of the 2012-13 season. Unfortunately for the then-veteran, he missed out on what would have been his second ring.
Not everyone can handle Pop.
One of the lessons here is that Pop's coaching style is not meant for every player. Another player who had also aired his grievances at the iconic tactician was Dennis Rodman.
And recently, former Spurs star Dejounte Murray blasted the franchise for supposedly mishandling his rookie season during an appearance on Jackson's podcast. That could have also been a shot at Popovich, who has earned a reputation for being hard on younger players and giving the Big 3 special treatment.
Those tales show that it takes a special kind of player to succeed in Popovich's system, which Duncan naturally was. They also serve as a reminder of how brilliant of a leader the two-time MVP was. By listening to the coaching staff, even through reproach, the Hall of Famer had many of his teammates falling in line en route to five championship trophies.