Over the course of his 19-year NBA career, Tim Duncan made quite the case to be considered the greatest power forward of all-time with five NBA titles, three Finals MVPs and two league MVPs in addition to 15 All-Star, All-NBA and All-Defensive Team selections.
As Duncan is set to be enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame on May 15, our NBA.com Staff revisits some of our favourite memories of his illustrious career.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): For some reason, when I think Duncan, I think back to Game 1 of the opening round of the 2008 NBA Playoffs.
With 12.6 seconds remaining in the first overtime period, the San Antonio Spurs trailed the Phoenix Suns 104-101. The Spurs, who were the defending champs, were the No. 3 seed and were in jeopardy of losing home court advantage to a sixth-seeded Suns team that finished just one game behind them in the standings.
After setting a ball screen for Manu Ginobili, Duncan popped and was wide open at the right break spot. Always known for making the correct basketball play, Ginobili found Duncan, who seemingly had forever to get his shot off.
Duncan, who hadn't hit a 3-pointer in over a year, calmly sank this one with 3.0 seconds remaining to tie things up and force a second overtime, where San Antonio would earn a two-point win.
He would finish Game 1 with 40 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and three blocks.
I remember watching this game live and having zero doubt in my mind that Duncan would connect on the tying 3, even though it was something he rarely did. I think that speaks to how reliable Duncan was throughout his career and how he was expected to make winning plays.
Those Spurs won that series in five games, broke my heart by defeating the New Orleans Hornets in seven games in the semifinals and then fell to the Los Angeles Lakers in five in the Western Conference Finals. Had Duncan not hit that big shot to open the playoffs, who knows if San Antonio builds the steam to have such a run.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): Let's go back to the 2003 NBA Finals.
The Spurs held a 3-2 series lead over the New Jersey Nets and were returning to San Antonio for Game 6. Their backs weren't exactly up against the wall - they still had two more bites at the apple - but they were one win away from securing the second title in franchise history.
What did Duncan do? Only flirt with a quadruple-double, recording 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and eight blocks.
It was Duncan at his best, controlling the court on both ends to lead the Spurs to victory, earning his second of five championships and second of three Finals MVPs along the way.
Honourable mention: The time DeMarcus Cousins tried to bully Duncan and learned the hard way that Duncan is not to be messed with. That was fun.
Agustín Aboy (@AboyAgustin): As a kid who grew up in Argentina in the 2000s, the Spurs were the obvious way to become an NBA fan because of Manu Ginóbili. So with the team being a contender year after year, I grew up watching every Spurs game that was on TV. No Kobe, no Nash, no LeBron. Duncan, Ginóbili and Parker were the top NBA superstars for me.
Even so, I can't tell you the amount of times I thought: "Wow, Duncan scored 25 points and got 15 rebounds, and I didn't even notice during the game".
Then, as I started to grow up, I began to understand the X's and O's of the sport a little bit more, and paying attention to every possession I fell in love with Duncan. It was like he didn't want to be noticed. He didn't need that. He only wanted to win, and he did the right thing for the team on every single play. He was not running here and there like Parker or Manu. He wasn't always the hero. But he was the heartbeat of the team that you could always trust.
Duncan was the first sports figure that showed me that you didn't have to do all the flashy things to be good. The way he mastered the game was something else.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): I started to think of one specific Tim Duncan moment to peg as my favourite, but he's such a unique player in that there aren't necessarily individual plays or moments that stick out the way it does for other superstars.
But I think that's part of what makes Duncan so special compared to any other player in NBA history. He was so consistent that he doesn't need individual highlights to stand out to honour him as one of the greatest to ever play the game. Growing up on the East Coast, I only saw Duncan if I stayed up late to watch a national TV game or when he was in the playoffs, which ... just so happened to be every year of his career.
And it seemed like any time I tuned in to watch the Spurs play, Duncan was a lock to put up at least 20 points and 10 rebounds with a couple of blocks, and he would make a number of winning plays to help San Antonio in any way possible.
I'll always remember him for his classic bank shot, and still to this day, any time someone banks in a jumper it's a natural reaction to give Duncan a shoutout in the same way you'd yell "Kobe!" after taking a fadeaway.
He's 1-of-1 in a sense that he doesn't need individual games, moments or plays for fans across the world to remember and recognize his all-time greatness.
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