- San Antonio Spurs 1997 - present
Timothy Theodore Duncan, or Tim Duncan, is a professional basketball player from the Virgin Islands who plays as a power forward. Born to a midwife and a mason, Duncan fell in love with swimming, dreaming of representing his country at the Olympics. Born to excellent swimmers in her parents and a sister who represented the USA in the 1988 Olympic Games, Duncan didn’t get in touch with basketball until 9th grade. The move was, however, forced onto him as their Olympic-sized swimming pool was destroyed by a hurricane.
Duncan’s enthusiasm to swim diminished as he was forced to swim in the oceans but his fear of sharks kept him away.
At the St. Dunstan’s Episcopal High School, Duncan became one of the most prominent players, despite having to deal with the pain of losing his mother to breast cancer, a day before he turned 14. In his senior year at high school, Duncan scored at 25 points per game to take advantage of his height and build.
Duncan went to the Wake Forest University, playing for the Demon Deacons for four seasons. Although he had problems adapting to collegiate ball in his early days, Duncan did manage, along with teammate Randolph Childress, to lead the Demon Deacons to a 20-11 record for the season. In 1994, he was asked to represent the American team at the Goodwill Games. Despite his interest and skill at basketball, Duncan was one of the more academically inclined students at Wake Forest University.
Duncan earned the nickname “Mr. Spock” for his detached character and was likened to the Star Trek character. In his second season, Duncan was named as the most probable to be the NBA Draft’s number one pick, along with Joe Smith, Rasheed Wallace & Jerry Stackhouse. Despite statements from important men in the NBA about Duncan going first if he declared early, the player decided to stick to college and earn his degree before making his way into the professional arena.
In the 1994-95 ACC Championship game, Duncan’s Demon Deacons clashed against the North Carolina Tar Heels led by Rasheed Wallace. Duncan neutralized Wallace’s threat while Childress won it for Wake Forest, sending them to the NCAA tournament. The team was eventually knocked out in the Sweet Sixteen stage despite Duncan’s 12 points, 22 rebounds and 8 blocks. Duncan was named as the Defensive Player of the Year and also became the third-highest shot blocker in the history of the NCAA with a 3.98 average per game. Duncan was named to the All-ACC First Team as well, something he would repeat in his remaining two years of college education.
Childress moved to the NBA in 1995-96 and Duncan came to the fore with his leadership capabilities. Losing just 4 times in the ACC season, the Demon Deacons rallied on Duncan’s shoulders, making their way to the Sweet Sixteen again. Duncan missed the game due to Flu and missed the team’s Elite Eight run that year. However, Duncan was still named as the ACC Player of the Year as well as the Defensive Player of the Year.
In his final year in college, the Demon Deacons were boosted by the arrival of a future NBA star, Loren Woods. At 7’1”, Woods was certainly a force to reckon with, easing the pressure, to grab boards, on Duncan. Despite going on a 13-0 winning start at the start of the season, the Demon Deacons failed to win the ACC championship title while losing to Stanford University in the NCAA tournament. Duncan averaged 20.8 points per game with 3.2 assists and 14.7 rebounds to become the Defensive Player of the Year for an unprecedented third consecutive year. He was also named to the All-America first team for the second time while being a unanimous pick for the USWBA And Naismith College Player of the Year award. Duncan also won the ACC Player of the Year award as well as the 1997 John Wooden award. Duncan ended college by becoming the first player in the history of the NCAA to reach 1,500 points, 1,000 rebounds, 400 blocks and 200 assists. He led the all-time ACC records with his 481 blocks and was only second in the NCAA behind Adonal Foyle. Duncan finally declared for the 1997 NBA Draft, getting picked at an unsurprising number one overall, by the San Antonio Spurs.
Entering the San Antonio Spurs lineup meant that Duncan would team up with the 1987 NBA Draft number one pick, David “The Admiral” Robinson to form two extremely potent towers at the back for the Spurs. With Duncan and Robinson leading them at power forward and center respectively, there was no holding back for the Spurs who were looking at the “Twin Towers” to demolish their opponents.
Duncan, in just his second road game, went to the Chicago Bulls and beat Dennis Rodman to 22 rebounds. He ended his rookie season with 21.1 points and 11.9 rebounds to add to his averages of 2.7 assists and 2.5 blocks per game. Duncan ended with the year with the NBA Rookie of the Year title and was obviously named to the All-Rookie First Team at the All-Star weekend.
At the 1998 playoffs, Duncan overcame the Phoenix Suns who put less pressure on him however, when facing the eventual champions, the Utah Jazz in the second round, Karl Malone kept Duncan in his place. Despite outscoring Malone in the first game, Duncan was shut down by Malone and the Spurs were out. In his second season, despite a poor start, the Spurs bounced back with confidence while Duncan ended the season with 21.7 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.5 blocks per season. He was named to the All-NBA and All-Defense First Teams.
In the 1999 NBA Playoffs, Duncan and Robinson were on fire. They smashed the Minnesota Timberwolves 3-1, destroyed the Los Angeles Lakers 4-0, decimated the Portland Trail Blazers 4-0 and wiped the floor with the dark horses, the New York Knicks, beating them 4-1 in the NBA Championship Finals. Duncan was named as the MVP for the Finals and soon, the Spurs were again amongst the top teams in the NBA.
In 1999-2000, Duncan ended the season with 23.2 points, 2.2 blocks, 3.2 assists and 12.4 rebounds per game to be named to another year of NBA and All-Defensive First Team honours. He was also named as the Co-MVP for the season, sharing the award with Shaquille O’Neal, during the NBA All-Star Game. Duncan got injured during the playoffs and that greatly affected the Spurs’ challenge in the post-season phase, losing out in the first round.
In 2000-01, Duncan moved up to 22.2 points per game with 12.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. Another All-NBA and All-Defensive first team call up was a result of his role in taking the Spurs to the Playoffs, however faced with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, Duncan and Robinson fell away as O’Neal rocked the court with his power play. The following year, Duncan went even better from the court, scoring 25.5 points per game with 12.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. He led the league with 764 field goals and 560 attempted free throws while picking up another league-leading 1042 rebounds.
Duncan was named to the All-NBA First Team as well as the All-Defense First Team while being named as the 2002 NBA MVP. With Robinson looking past his prime, Duncan had to depend on Malik Rose to provide the support but again, facing the Lakers in the 2002 Playoffs, the Spurs were beaten by the O’Neal-Bryant combo once again.
In 2002-03, Duncan finally made things count. Despite the usual cavalcade of 23.3 points per game, 12.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.9 blocks, All-NBA First Team and All-Defensive First Team, Duncan was also named as the NBA MVP for the second year running, as the Spurs went onto to win the 2003 NBA Championship title, the second during his reign. Duncan also won the MVP award for the NBA Finals in a season that saw the curtain fall on an illustrious David Robinson career.
Robinson’s retirement meant that Duncan would need lesser playing time, being the sole star on the team. In Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, Duncan had two able and hungry teammates who lead the Spurs to a 60-22 record in normal season, easily making the playoffs. In the final game of the conference semi-finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, Duncan recorded a quadruple double to seal the series with his stamp. Duncan and Robinson were named as the 2003 Sports Illustrated Sportsmen of the Year.
Duncan took to the leadership at Spurs like a duck to water, even though there might have been hints of an initial reluctance. 22.3 points per game with 2.7 blocks, 12.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists meant that the Spurs were on their way to yet another playoffs in the 2003-04 season. The Spurs lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference semi-finals, mainly due to strong defense by the Los Angeles team.
For the first time in many years, Duncan fell to 20.3 points and 11.1 rebounds per game while his assists dropped to 2.7 and blocks to 2.6 per game. However, this dip in form was not enough to shoo away the Spurs as gained the second seed spot for the 2005 Playoffs. Beating the Nuggets, the Supersonics and the Suns on their way to the NBA Finals, the Spurs came face-to-face with the Detroit Pistons and Duncan’s multiple-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year winning rival, Ben Wallace.
With the series tied at 3-3, it took an extraordinary display of leadership and skill, from Duncan, to lead the Spurs to another NBA Championship title, his third with the team. His third title put him as the only player other than Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Magic Johnson, to win the title thrice.
The following season, Duncan suffered an injury-hit year and that meant that he would remain out of action for a large part, bringing his performance down to just 18.6 points per game. He failed to make the All-NBA first team for the first time in 8 seasons however, his performance in the playoffs was as impressive as ever. The Spurs ended up losing to the Mavericks despite some heroics on Duncan’s part in Game 7.
In 2006-07, Duncan again shone for the Spurs although with lower performance stats for the year, his 20.0 points per game, 10.6 rebounds per game, 3.4 assists and 2.4 blocks per game were enough to warrant a 9th All-Star appearance for the Virgin Island-born player. The playoffs were again a story about the Duncan-led Spurs beating the Denver Nuggets (4-1), the Phoenix Suns (4-2) and the Utah Jazz (4-1) to win the Western Conference Finals. Facing the Cleveland Cavaliers in the finals, the Spurs romped home to a 4-0 win to get Duncan his fourth and “best”, according to the big man himself, NBA Championship title.
In 2007-08, Duncan went in search for title number five and finished regular season with 19.3 points per game and 11.3 rebounds. Facing the Suns in the first round of the Playoffs, Duncan came up against an old rival in Shaquille O’Neal. Along with Parker and Ginobili, Duncan made sure that the Suns went home early. Beating the New Orleans Hornets, the Spurs came up against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Conference Finals and as it turned out, Kobe Bryant’s heroics led to their downfall in 5 games.
In 2008-09, despite starting the season strongly, Duncan’s performance fell drastically and he was, eventually, diagnosed with a chronic knee tendinitis. With Duncan out for most of the season, and Ginobili also out injured, the Spurs still managed to ride on Tony Parker, Michael Finley and Kurt Thomas to make the playoffs. Despite Duncan’s return, an aging Spurs side was unable to beat the Dallas Mavericks.
At the international level, Duncan was part of the USA National Team at the 1998 World Basketball Championships. But due to the lockout, the team was replaced by players from the CBA. In 1999, he played in the Olympic qualifiers but failed to play at the 2000 Sydney Olympics due to a knee injury.
In 2004, he was part of Team USA again, as they won the bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
A low key personality off the court, Tim Duncan has been awarded the St. Croix Medal of Honor, the highest territorial government award for a citizen. A Philanthropist and gentle giant off the court, there are few more inspiring players in the NBA as Tim Duncan.
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