Tim Duncan retired Monday after 19 NBA seasons with the ultimate distinction of having never committed a single foul.
The irony is, off the floor, there was no quieter superstar. On it, there was no louder whiner.
One of the lasting images of Tim Duncan is his expression of disbelief — hands out, eyes popping from his skull and mouth agape — when a referee had the audacity to call him for a foul.
Timmy could cry with the best of ’em. Make no mistake — he was the best of ’em.
If you were starting an NBA franchise in the last 20 years, the first player selected should be Timmy.
He ranks with Davy Crockett and Lt. Col. William B. Travis as the most famous San Antonio residents ever. Had Timmy been holed up at the Alamo, even money says he would have swatted away General Santa Anna.
If you are picking the best athlete this century, the first player that should be selected is Timmy.
And if you are picking Texas’ best pro jock, the first player selected should be Timmy.
He is the second Hall of Fame player to retire from the NBA in the last few months — the other was Kobe Bryant, who had a prolonged farewell tour last season.
For the finale to his career, predictably Timmy did nothing, which was always part of his charm. Few active players enjoyed the fruits of celebrity while avoiding its hassles and headaches; he was given a pass as he shirked his professional responsibilities as an ambassador of his team, his league and his sport.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tweeted, “Upset at Tim Duncan we didn’t get to honor him at a Mavs Spurs game.”
There was about as good a chance of Duncan tolerating a retirement party as Cuban admitting he screwed up rebuilding the Mavericks.
Few players are more deserving of a sendoff, yet no one would have wanted it less than Duncan. It won’t be surprising when he says, “No comment” for his Hall of Fame induction speech.
In Texas, Tim Duncan is the best professional athlete ever from any of this state’s pro teams. That list includes Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, Warren Moon, Emmitt Smith, Earl Campbell, Hakeem Olajuwon, Mike Modano, Nolan Ryan, Dirk Nowitzki, Ivan Rodriguez, et al.
Duncan was the best player on the team that won more titles than any other in the state. He has two more rings than Aikman-Emmitt-Michael, three more than the The Dream and Roger, and four more than Dirk Nowitzki and Modano.
In this century, Tim Duncan is better than the best in any North American sport — better than Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Mike Trout, Sydney Crosby, Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, LeBron James, etc.
Duncan was better than all of them because no one won like The Big Fundamental — his .710 winning percentage is better than any other North American sports franchise during his career.
Since Michael Jordan won his last title, there was no more impactful NBA player than Tim Duncan. He was better than Kobe. He was better than Shaq. He was (barely) better than Hakeem. And David Robinson should thank God every day Timmy saved his butt.
Timmy won rings in three decades, MVP trophies and the numbers he compiled during his career rival that of any of the best players.
The reason Timmy is a better pick than Kobe or LeBron is no great player of this era affected the entire floor better than Duncan, and he wasn’t a drama mama.
Between his offensive and defensive numbers, you can conservatively estimate that Duncan positively impacted roughly 40 points per game for the Spurs in his career. That’s just his average, and not his career-best seasons.
And when Duncan was on the floor at the same time with Robinson, it was laughably unfair.
Duncan was the modern-day Bill Russell — he scored, rebounded, created space, clogged space, was inexhaustible, seldom missed shots and had a basketball IQ as good as any player can have.
About the only thing The Big Fundamental did not do well was make free throws; in his career, he made .696 percent of his foul shots. From the floor, he shot better than 50 percent.
He made good players, great players. He turned spares into valued parts. He turned other great players into average jump shooters. He made the San Antonio Spurs into a destination and one of the NBA’s all-time great dynasties.
As is the case with all superstar NBA players, Timmy made his head coach a genius. Without Tim Duncan, there is no “Spurs Culture” or “Spurs dynasty” and Gregg Popovich is just another very good NBA head coach. And Pop knows it, too.
Had Duncan ever tired of Pop’s grouchy act, the coach would have been fired immediately. Pop knows that, too.
Rather than play a 20th NBA season, Tim Duncan is done. He is 40 and he did everything a basketball player could do up to and including never committing a single foul.
Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.