Longtime Spurs Power Forward Tim Duncan announced his retirement from the NBA earlier today. He retires with five championships, two NBA MVPs, and 15 All-star game appearances on his resume.
Duncan was initially inspired to play basketball by his brother in law during his teenage years. He had difficulty playing the game at first, being that he was so tall and lanky. But he soon adapted to the game and became a standout at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal High School, where he averaged 25 points per game as a senior. His play gained him a full athletic scholarship from Wake Forest University.
He became a star at Wake Forest, winning the ACC Player of the Year award twice and the NABC Defensive Player of the Year Award three times. During his senior season, he led the conference in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, and blocked shots, the first player in conference history to lead in all four categories in the same season.
After four standout seasons at Wake Forest, the San Antonio Spurs selected Duncan first overall in the 1997 NBA Draft. Duncan made an immediate impact in his first NBA season, averaging 21.1 points, 11.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.5 blocks per game. He also won the NBA Rookie of the Year award and was named to the All NBA First team.
In his second season, Duncan, along with David Robinson, helped lead the Spurs to their first NBA championship in franchise history. Duncan was spectacular in his first NBA Finals, winning Finals MVP and finishing the series with a 31 point and 9 rebound performance in Game Five. Duncan and Robinson would go on to win one more NBA title in 2003 before Robinson retired from the NBA.
After the retirement of Robinson, Duncan became the undisputed leader of the Spurs. He once again led them to NBA championships in the 2005 and 2007 seasons. He won the Finals MVP in the 2005 Finals but during the 2007 Finals, Duncan took a backseat role and allowed Tony Parker to win the MVP trophy.
Following the 2007 Championship, Duncan continued to lead the Spurs to great regular seasons but they were not met with much postseason success. In 2011, after finishing with the best record in the NBA, the Spurs were upset by the 8th seeded Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs. In 2012, Duncan and the Spurs made it all the way to the Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder. But after taking a 2-0 series lead, the Spurs were unable to win another game as they lost the series 4-2.
In 2013, at the age of 37, Duncan lead the Spurs to the NBA Finals, this time against LeBron James and the Miami Heat. The series went back and forth with neither team being able to separate themselves from the other. But after five games, Duncan and the Spurs had a 3-2 series lead going into Game 6 in Miami. In Game 6, Duncan scored 25 points in the first half. But unfortunately, due in large part to Ray Allen, the Spurs lost the game in overtime and ultimately lost the clinching seventh game.
After contemplating retirement during the off season, Duncan decided to return to the Spurs for his 17th season. During the post season, Duncan achieved two pieces of retribution. He helped lead the Spurs past the Oklahoma City Thunder in six games, repaying the Thunder for defeating the Spurs two years prior. Defeating the Thunder gave the Spurs an opportunity to get revenge on the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. In record fashion, the Spurs defeated the Miami Heat 4-1, which won Tim Duncan his 5th and final NBA championship.
His final two seasons in the NBA were mostly injury plagued. However, he still managed to help lead the Spurs to the 7th best regular season record in NBA History during the 2015-16 season. After defeating the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round, the Spurs once again met the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs. After blowing out the Thunder in Game One, Duncan and the Spurs were unable to contain Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, eventually losing the series 4-2. But in his final game, Duncan did return to his All-star self by scoring his series high of 19 points.
Duncan spent his entire 19 year career with the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs’ 1,072-438 regular-season record during that stretch is the best 19 year span in NBA history and it is also the top winning percentage in the four major U.S. sports over the past 19 years.
Duncan also finishes with career averages of 19 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game. He ranks 14th all-time in points, sixth in rebounds, and fifth in blocks.
He is only the third player in NBA history to win 1000 career regular season games, joining Robert Parish and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. He is also the only player in NBA history to start and win a title in three different decades (1990s, 2000s, and 2010s).
Pictures courtesy of basket4us, ESPN, and SI