The Value of Tim Duncan
by rick olivares
The most obvious barometer for Tim Duncan’s value is in the number of championships he won and all the statistical milestones he achieved in his 19-year NBA career. That alone sets him up as one of the all-time greats to play in the NBA and perhaps the rest of the world.
Yet there is another way to measure the value of Tim Duncan.
It is oft described about him and maybe we should emphasize it — he was a character guy.
The Association’s 69-year history, there have been many larger than life personalities, some who went on to be legends, some villains or anti-heroes, and some who straddle that thin line between star and the overrated depending if they win a championship or not.
There was a time when the Los Angeles Lakers and then the Phoenix Suns were the preferred destination by many a basketball player. That meant playing in a great place for a very good organization that took care of their players. And hey, the golf was good.
San Antonio inherited that mantle. Play for a coaching great whose system saw many players thrive in its equal opportunity offense. The team was led by a trio of heady and classy veterans. Year in and out they were always in the playoffs and competed for a NBA title.
How many players in their twilight years won a championship while playing a reserve role for the Spurs — Jerome Kersey, Steve Smith, Kevin Willis, Brent Barry, Nazr Mohammed, Glenn Robinson, and Michael Finley to name a few. Heck, even Australian great Andrew Gaze tasted championship champagne with this group.
Want a championship ring? Come play for the Spurs.
That’s why LaMarcus Aldridge left Portland.
While another all-time great in David Robinson provided strength of character as someone who didn’t rock the boat, Duncan’s arrival shifted the Spurs’ gear into overdrive. There was never “give me the ball because I’m the Man!” They adopted the Euro-style of basketball that swung in the face of the swagger and style that the Fab Five of Michigan espoused and that Slam later celebrated in its pages. Five championships later… you get the drift.
Critics decried San Antonio’s boring style of play. In truth, it was simple basketball devoid of the isolation and death defying slam dunks that made Sportscenter. It was simple, fundamental basketball. Pass. Pass some more. Find the open man. Get back on defense. Repeat the cycle.
The Spurs adopted the persona of both Duncan and Popovich — staid, respectable, with a tinge of deadpan humor. Check out the Spurs’ attempts at humour on YouTube. You’ll end up eating those words about the lack of a sense of humour.
Because of Duncan, character became important. Teams would say of certain players, “he’s the ‘glue guy.’" With the Spurs, everyone was a glue guy. And Timmy was the ultimate glue guy. Ever hear about anyone leaving the team disgruntled? About being sat down by their coach who was saving them for the long play-off run? Teams will pay a million bucks to find the right guys for their team.
Franchise players — there are a few of them. But guys who brought greater value to their team because of character — Tim Duncan tops the list.