Tim Duncan may have had a dunk of his own on Sunday, but this was the NBA All-Star Game. Well aware that it’s the style points that matter, Duncan said he enjoyed Dirk Nowitzki’s dunk more than his own.
TV cameras caught Duncan filled with joy as Nowitzki flushed an alley-oop on a Steph Curry pass, and Dirk followed with a celebration that channeled Vince Carter.
“Dirk’s was probably better,” Duncan said. “I didn’t have as good a celebration. I should have celebrated more.”
Duncan found more fun in the antics of fellow All-Stars, as he said spending time with other players has always been his favorite part of All-Star Weekend.
The West team did win 163-158 and Russell Westbrook was named MVP with 41 points.
Duncan’s final stats: two points on that fourth-quarter dunk, two assists and nine rebounds in 15 minutes.
But Duncan might be less likely to remember the final score than a pregame 3-point shootout he had against Nowitzki and Kevin Durant (Nowitzki won).
During warmups, Duncan joked with Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge and the Clippers’ Chris Paul, then had a full conversation with Toronto’s Kyle Lowry on the other end of the court. The practice jumpers seemed secondary to spending time with a new generation of All-Stars.
Sunday’s All-Star Game was Duncan’s 15th and it came at Madison Square Garden, the same place as his first All-Star Game in 1998. While 1998 featured Michael Jordan and Grant Hill, 2015 had Westbrook and LeBron James, with Duncan enjoying his time just as much.
“Madison Square Garden is a really special place for me, personally,” Duncan said. “My first All-Star Game, first championship, and now another great experience here.”
Duncan got to play for Golden State and West coach Steve Kerr, 12 years after Kerr was last a Spurs teammate of Duncan in 2002-03. Duncan said he picked on Kerr “nonstop,” and Kerr did it back to him as well.
Both coaches had Spurs ties, as Atlanta Hawks and Eastern Conference head coach Mike Budenholzer spent 19 seasons with the Spurs, starting as a video coordinator before becoming coach Gregg Popovich’s lead assistant.
Duncan said before the game that he didn’t expect to be selected by the Western Conference coaches this year, and often reiterated the honor of making the trip.
One of five players to make 15 or more All-Star teams, Duncan joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only two in NBA history to actually play in 15 All-Star Games. Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Shaquille O’Neal all missed games because of injuries.
His selection also gives the Spurs an All-Star in 36 of 39 seasons since they joined the NBA in 1976 (with no All-Star game in 1999 because of a lockout).
Duncan added to his All-Star Game record for career defensive rebounds and now has 98, while his 136 total career All-Star Game rebounds have him at fifth all-time. Wilt Chamberlain has the most career total rebounds in the game with 197.
Not that All-Star Game stats compare next to the memory of Dirk Nowitzki pointing his fingers to the sky.
“We just had a really enjoyable experience overall,” Duncan said. “Guys were having a lot of great fun with it, and that’s the best part.”