It's hard to believe, but it's been 16 years since Tim Duncan last put on his Wake Forest uniform and went #1 overall in the 1997 NBA Draft. He went #1 overall after a sensational 4-year college career, during which he was named a 3-time All-American, 2-time ACC Player of the Year, 1997 National Player of the Year, and led Wake Forest to 2 ACC Championships. He could've been the #1 pick in 1995 or 1996, but he chose to stay all four years at Wake Forest.
Unless the NBA changes their rules, there will be no more players who can boast the same college resume and go on to have as illustrious of an NBA career as Tim Duncan did. Since the 1998 NBA Draft, the #1 Overall Pick has had an average college career of 1.2 years. In 2006, the NBA initiated a rule which required all players entering the draft to be at least 19 years of age and be one or more years removed from their high school graduation. 5 of the 6 top picks since that rule has been initiated have been freshman. The other was a sophomore, Blake Griffin. Duncan was named to his 14th All Star Game in 2013. The 24 All-Stars this year combined for 35 years of college experience, or 1.45 years/player.
None of this is meant to say anything negative about players who went straight from high school to the pros, or now the players who are "one and done." I personally believe players should be allowed to enter the NBA Draft straight out of high school. What I do mean to say by this is that Wake Forest fans are beyond fortunate. We got to watch Tim Duncan dominate the ACC for 4 years, and have been able to watch him dominate the NBA for the past 16 years. I'd argue that Tim Duncan is as beloved by his college fan base as any player in NBA history.
In many regards, Tim Duncan brought the Wake Forest fan base to the NBA. Yes, Muggsy Bogues, Rodney Rogers, Randolph Childress and other Demon Deacons had come before him, but Duncan was different. Tim Duncan generated countless Spurs fans. I can't tell you how many Spurs fans you see on the Wake Forest message boards, and it's all because of Tim Duncan. As beloved as Chris Paul is by the Wake Forest fan base, Tim Duncan is still the fan base's favorite player, and it's not close.
Duncan is a true legend among the Wake Forest fan base. In all likelihood he will forever be the greatest player to ever wear the old gold & black. As former teammate and current assistant Rusty LaRue said, "Tim is the most fundamentally sound and skilled post player I have ever played with. Tim is not only a great rebounder and scorer, but he is an excellent passer and teammate."
That is precisely why we need to literally and metaphorically cement Tim Duncan's legacy outside of "The Joel." For the rest of time, every Wake Forest fan who walks through the front doors of The Joel should get to walk by and admire the great and timeless Tim Duncan. The more I think about it, the more remarkable it becomes that a player of Duncan's incredible caliber passed up multiple opportunities and tens of millions of dollars in career earnings to enter the NBA Draft.The Wake Forest community is so unbelievably fortunate to be able to call Tim Duncan our own. I can't think of a finer representative both on and off the court. Tim Duncan is humble in victory and gracious in defeat. He truly is the last of his kind, and will forever be embraced be the Demon Deacon community.