Allen Iverson. Kobe Bryant. Ray Allen. Steve Nash. Stephon Marbury. Marcus Camby. The 1996 NBA rookie class was truly incredible. These lucky players were also the last guys to play in an NBA without Tim Duncan. I find it hard to even remember those days. It’s been a long 19 years. But Tim Duncan’s time as an NBA player is done. The future hall-of-famer announced today that he will not return this next season and that last year was his last.
You have to appreciate the way he did it. Kobe went out in the most Kobe way possible, launching a 100 shots. And now the quietest superstar in sports went with barely a whisper. No farewell tour. No pre-game ceremonies. Just a short announcement after the free agency fervor had died down. Duncan wasn’t one to take the spotlight from anyone, even though he arguably deserved the brightest one. A fitting end.
Unlike Kobe however, Duncan contributed throughout his career. He didn’t have any growing pains, averaging 21 and 12 in his rookie year. Oh, he also won a championship in his second, the first of 5 titles. And while he surely wasn’t the same player the last few years, he was still a big contributor. His Spurs don’t win 67 games this past year if he wasn’t. He’s been giving the other 29 teams headaches for almost 20 years. How do those bank shots go in?
Now I don’t know how Duncan will be remembered. Even with the five championships, he was never the biggest name in the game. Guys like Kobe, Shaq, Iverson, LeBron, and now Steph Curry outshone him. But if you’re just looking at résumés, Duncan is just as impressive as anyone to play the game. And he got ejected for laughing.