Tim Duncan won his first NBA championship and first NBA Finals MVP award when Bill Clinton was still president. Four more titles would follow, along with two more Finals MVPs and two NBA MVP awards, to boot.
Duncan accomplished all those accolades after playing four years of college basketball at a time when the best NBA prospects began bolting to the league as soon as possible, sometimes skipping college altogether.
Rarer still, Duncan’s sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Fame career came with just one team, the San Antonio Spurs, at a time when NBA stars regularly switched jerseys in their primes.
But Duncan’s most unique trait was his marriage of basketball excellence with an unassuming personality and aversion to the spotlight. He was perhaps the greatest power forward of all time but maintained a perpetual deadpan expression on the court and rarely made celebrity appearances off of it.
Now Duncan’s history-making NBA run is over. He retired after 19 seasons Monday morning.
Even the manner in which news of his retirement broke was classic Tim Duncan.
The Spurs, not Duncan, announced the superstar’s retirement in a tweet Monday morning. (Duncan does not have a Twitter account.) Better yet, Duncan won’t even be present at his own retirement press conference Tuesday, according to Spurs beat writer Jeff McDonald.
Spurs have called a press conference Tuesday to address Tim Duncan’s retirement. Tim Duncan will not be present. This is somehow perfect.
Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) July 11, 2016
That’s not exactly the Kobe Bryant retirement blueprint. But Duncan, who actively shunned celebrity, personified the phrase “ball is life.”
Duncan, who actively shunned celebrity, personified the phrase “ball is life.”
He didn’t make albums or act on the side. He didn’t have fancy sneaker ads, or make headlines for late night carousing. He was all ball, all the time and when he wasn’t playing, he simply faded into the background.
Duncan, who is 40 years old, earned his Big Fundamental nickname for his precise footwork and accurate bank-shot. He was a 15-time NBA All-Star and led the Spurs to championships in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014. As the cast of players around him shifted, Duncan remained San Antonio’s rock in the paint while earning 10 All-NBA First Team selections.
As news of his retirement broke, a host of NBA players, executives and franchises teammates and rivals alike immediately took to Twitter to express admiration for an all-time great.
Salute to the greatest power forward ever! Illustrious career!! Much respect Timmy D.
Jamal Crawford (@JCrossover) July 11, 2016
Got a chance to play against Duncan for 10years and every time I played against him I was in amazement!! Congrats on a great career!!
Kyle Lowry (@Klow7) July 11, 2016
Even tho I knew it was coming, I’m still moved by the news. What a HUGE honor to have played with him for 14 seasons! #ThankYouTD
Manu Ginobili (@manuginobili) July 11, 2016
Leandro Barbosa (@TheBlurBarbosa) July 11, 2016
To that we can only add our own gratitude: Thanks for the memories, Timmy D; you were truly one of a kind. There will never be another NBA star quite like you.