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Just The Way We Thought He'd Go Out
Here I am at the airport in Las Vegas after 55 days five days of Summer League, ready to head back to Minneapolis. I’m here like three hours early because I’m a freak about being places super early.
There’s a slot machine next to me. There’s also the temptation of Pokémon GO (even though I still have no idea what it is).
I don’t want to lose money, and I don’t want to lose all of my friends, so here I am. Writing stuff.
Tim Duncan announced his retirement on Monday morning.
There wasn’t a tweet (Duncan, of course, doesn’t have Twitter).
There was no Players’ Tribune article, which is the new way to break news for athletes.
There wasn’t even a statement or a letter. Just a report from the Spurs saying the big man retired.
And that’s kind of perfect.
Pikachu got more attention than Duncan’s retirement. That’s how Duncan rolls, though. He’s not exciting. He dresses like your uncle, not an NBA player. He used the backboard throughout his career, something young players might not know exists.
It’s all fitting (unlike his clothes) because of course that’s how Duncan’s career was. He wasn’t the guy to scream after a big shot. Nothing about his game was sexy. In press conferences, he was kind of awkward. Right now he’s probably sitting somewhere wearing a plaid shirt that’s five years old and three sizes too big.
But none of that mattered to Duncan. He won five NBA titles. That’s what it was all about. Sure, the 15 All-Star games were nice. The two MVP trophies look nice in his trophy room (he probably just puts them in the attic). So were the three Finals MVP trophies. But it was all about the rings for Timmy D.
Minnesota fans have been lucky and cursed via Duncan through the years.
Blessed because they were able to watch his whole career and countless battles with their own Kevin Garnett. Cursed because the Wolves were stuck in the same conference as Duncan and the Spurs (along with Kobe and the Lakers, Chris Webber and the Kings, and Dirk and the Mavs).
Duncan’s Spurs eliminated the Wolves from the playoffs twice.
When it came to personalities, Duncan and Garnett couldn’t have been more different.
And before we compare, let’s just all respect the fact that different players have different approaches, upbringings and ways to convey their emotions. There’s no right way. There’s no wrong way (unless you’re kicking someone below the belt… We’re talking ‘bout you, Draymond).
Garnett was and is as passionate as they come. He loses himself in the moment. He yells. He screams. It’s all passion, all the time.
Duncan always looked like he was secretly planning on killing you. And that’s kind of what he did. He was calm. He oddly never sweated. He just kind of fit in. If you asked someone who never watched basketball who the best player on the floor was, Duncan probably wouldn’t be the pick.
When I was growing up, it was all about KG and Allen Iverson. Kobe was the villain. The Kings were annoying. The Spurs were... confusing.
'How are they good? Duncan is boring. David Robinson was past his prime. Who is this Tony Parker kid?'
But behind Duncan and Popovich, they built one of the best (boring) dynasties in the history of all of sports.
Call Duncan boring. He’ll probably agree. But also call him one of the best players to ever play the game.
TD, you’ll be missed.