He mentioned it several times – Tim Duncan hates public appearances. When thanking his two closest teammates and friends, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, the Hall of Famers said, “I can’t wait to see you guys up here, and for me not to be up here.” Yet, he gave one of the best Hall of Fame speeches in recent memory.
Duncan went over his incredible journey to the Hall of Fame in his speech and sealed it off with an emotional thank you to Gregg Popovich. Duncan was a swimmer, but his career stopped abruptly at 14 when a hurricane destroyed the only Olympic-size pool on the island. The alternative was swimming in the ocean, but Duncan’s (perfectly reasonable) fear of sharks stopped his swimming career. That’s when he grabbed a basketball for the first time – at 14 years old. He didn’t forget to point out that the two most important people in his basketball career had the least knowledge about the game.
My mom and my dad, Ione and William Duncan, a combined zero basketball knowledge – but they taught me more about the game than anyone else.Tim Duncan, Hall of Fame Enshrinement Speech
Duncan’s parents, especially his mom Ione, taught him that excellence is a daily quest – a lesson that will turn out to be important very soon. Next, his brother-in-law started teaching Tim the fundamentals of basketball and taking him to every game possible. Then Alonzo Mourning brought a group of players to promote basketball on the Virgin Islands, and one of the guys there was a Wake Forest alum who called the head coach, Dave Odom and told him he should check out a kid he saw. Allegedly, Odom got interested when he heard Duncan held his own matched up against Mourning in a 5-on-5. So the coach offered him a scholarship, and Duncan was off to Wake Forest.
At that point, I was going to be a redshirt. I went from being a redshirt freshman, arriving at Wake Forest, getting chickenpox two weeks later, losing 20 pounds, to being a starter that exact same year.Tim Duncan, Hall of Fame Enshrinement Speech
His teammates saw something in Duncan and told coach Odom he might want to wait with redshirting him. Four years later, Tim Duncan was the greatest player ever to play for Wake Forest University. Then came the NBA. In his 19 years with the Spurs, Duncan had 190 teammates. That number is a testament to his excellence – from being the rookie on a team with David Robinson, Avery Johnson, and Monty Williams to dominating the NBA with Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker and then mentoring Kawhi Leonard. 19 years of excellence.
Then there was one. The moment Duncan mentioned there was only one person left to talk about, a scream echoed in the hall “POOOOP!!” Tim smiled and said, “I don’t want to talk about him, he’s gonna get mad if I talk about him. … Sorry Pop.” No way he doesn’t talk about Pop.
“You showed up after I got drafted. You came to my island. You sat with my friends, my family. You talked with my dad. I thought that was normal. It’s not. You were an exceptional person. Thank you for teaching me about basketball, but even beyond that, teaching me that it’s not all about basketball. It’s about what’s happening in the world; about your family- for everything.”Tim Duncan, Hall of Fame Enshrinement Speech
We were all ready to get a bit choked up when Vanessa Bryant and Michael Jordan talk about Kobe. It turned out to happen a few more times during last night’s ceremony. Tim Duncan, one of the greatest people ever to play basketball. Also, quite good at the game itself.