It was announced today, quietly and without ceremony, that Tim Duncan, cornerstone of both NBA and Wake Forest lore, is retiring after 19 seasons, all with the San Antonio Spurs. Tim is perhaps the greatest to ever play Power Forward in the NBA, racking up five Championships, 15 All-Star Games, 10 Times First Team All-NBA, one of only four players to be a three time Finals MVP. There is a whole host of other accolades you can toss Tim's way, but perhaps the most "Tim Duncan" of them all is that he is now one of only three players in history, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parrish in winning 1,000+ career games.
The Spurs never won fewer than 50 games a season in Duncan's 20 years except for the lockout-shortened 1998-1099 season, wherein if you extrapolated their 37-13 record, the Spurs would have won well over 50 games in a full season. Now of course Tim wasn't solely responsible for those successes. The Spurs have been perhaps the most consistent franchise in sports over the last 20 years, with an all-time great coach in Gregg Popovich, a model front office, and a slew of fantastic but not generally flashy players.
In many ways, Tim Duncan and the Spurs have been perfect mirrors of one another. They're not a team that got talked about year in and year out as a championship contender because they were never the sexiest pick, but they were always a solid, smart pick. Perhaps you'd have gotten some raised eyebrows the first few years, but after the turn of the millennium I think you could safely mention the Spurs as your pick to make the NBA Finals and not too many would argue very loudly against it.
It is of course a wonder whether Tim Duncan was so consistent because of the Spurs, orr if the Spurs were so consistent because of Tim Duncan, and the argument could be made for either, but I'd argue it's both at the same time. This was a case where player and organization were well and truly perfect for one another.
In an age where super teams are the new norm, and the Golden State Warriors bombing threes from different area codes somehow manages to be good strategy (for the Warriors, anyway), Tim Duncan in 2016 is an anachronism. One team had his name on their roster his entire 19 years, with only one brief talk of him going to the Orlando Magic prior to the 99-00 season ever potentially taking him away from Texas (which would have seen a fascinating Big Three of Duncan, Hill, and McGrady).
Tim's game was never flashy or dominated by highlight plays, even when he was a world-class athlete in the prime of his youth. Tim Duncan always flew in he face of the Modern NBA Superstar, with few endorsement deals, a solid but "boring" play style (depending on who you ask, of course), and one of the most unassuming, quiet dispositions imaginable for a man quite possibly ensconced as a top-15 player in NBA history. None of that mattered, though, because few ever argued against his greatness, and Duncan was and is respected by his progenitors, peers, and young stars alike.
I realize this is a Wake blog and that I talked only of Tim's NBA career, but let's be honest. Tim Duncan IS Wake Forest, and the NBA will not be the same without The Big Fundamental. Congratulations, Tim, and rest easy. You're one of the best, Deac and Spur alike, and the game of basketball will not be the same without you.