Unless you were paying close attention this week, you may not have noticed that Tim Duncan retired. The San Antonio Spur did not have a year-long good-bye party which would have allowed all 30 teams, including his own, to honour him. That may have been selfish and a distraction to his team. Duncan did not try to be the primary scorer this past year as that too would have been selfish and not in the best interest of the Spurs. There was no fanfare, no speeches, no confetti, no press conference and no gathering of the elite to speak of his greatness. That would be egotistical and would embarrass the humble Duncan more than honour him. All he wanted and all that came was a simple press release by the only NBA team he ever knew.
Tim Duncan announces retirement pic.twitter.com/b2hzhvkYBf
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) July 11, 2016
Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant are guaranteed Hall of Famers and each one deservingly so. Nobody ever questioned their commitment to the game and each played consistently at such a high level. Kobe however always seemed to grab the headlines as he was a flashier player and more outspoken. He wasn’t mired in controversy, Kobe thrived on it. Therefore it came as no surprise to anyone how he wanted to leave the game. Duncan is not like that. Duncan was Mr. Fundamental. He was quiet and he let his team’s success do all the talking. Duncan didn’t announce his retirement during the season to take away from his team’s chances of winning. He didn’t announce his retirement after they lost to OKC because that would take the spot light away from the NBA playoffs. He didn’t even announce his retirement after the Championship or around the draft or at the start of free agency because it again, would take attention away from the NBA. Therefore it came as no surprise to anyone how he wanted to leave the game.
I know I am picking on the Black Mamba for the circus he put the Lakers through this year, but please don’t interpret that as hatred or lack of respect. Kobe Bryant has many fantastic qualities and on a personal note, he unknowingly provided a special moment that I shared with my son. Time for a quick @PapaDart story. It was about five years ago when the Lakers were in town to play the Raptors. Prior to the game I was given an opportunity to tour the ACC with my oldest child who was 8 at the time. There was only one player out on the floor practicing jump shot after jump shot hours before the game. As we neared, my son’s eyes widened as he realized it was Kobe Bryant. I knelt down beside him and said, “Kobe Bryant is one of the best players in the world and yet he keeps practicing. So whatever you choose to do in life, if you ever feel like you don’t need to practice or you don’t need to work hard, remember this moment. If Kobe feels he should practice, then most likely so do you.” Mr. Bryant, I can’t ever thank you enough for that.
Back to Tim and Kobe and despite all the difference I mentioned above, there are a few similarities between the two. They both played for just one team their entire career and they both led their respective teams to championships. More importantly however, they played the game how they wanted to play it and they left the game how they wanted to leave it. Players like this come along once every generation and yet here we are saying goodbye to two of them during the same year. With two players almost diametrically opposed, the big question now must be asked. If you were starting an NBA team, would you rather have Kobe Bryant or Tim Duncan?
Lol give Kobe all of Duncan's teammates then let's revisit these numbers. pic.twitter.com/YMWDN5uQaO
— OXTAIL GAWD (@ThatDudeMCFLY) July 12, 2016
The answer to me is quite simple, Tim Duncan but until recently I could never properly explain why. He wasn’t the greatest player or the greatest scorer. He didn’t even win the most championships. What he did though was make his team consistently good by always doing what was best for the team. The Spurs made the playoffs in all of his 19 years, winning 5 championships. Tim Duncan was the greatest franchise player in the NBA and quite possibly in all team sports. The average person may not recognize the name Tim Duncan as well as Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan or LeBron James and that is not because he was underrated, it was because he was under discussed. Duncan it seems, wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
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