Tim Duncan calls it a career
In 1997 Bill Clinton was entering his 5th year as president of the United States, the Chicago Bulls had just won 69 games en route to their 5th NBA title and they were favorited for a 6th; Karl Malone was the leagues MVP; The Golden State Warriors were in the middle of their 14 year playoff less streak; Brett Farve had just lead the Green Bay Packers to their third franchise Super-bowl; and the San Antonio Spurs failed to make the NBA playoff.
19 years is a very long time and in sports it is an eternity, but that season 19 years ago would shape the Spurs franchise and the NBA for the next two decades. For their futility the Spurs ended up winning the #1 draft pick in the 1997 NBA draft and selected Wake Forrest product Tim Duncan.
Duncan would go on to dominate the forward position in the NBA like few have ever done before him and likely few will do after him. As a second year player, teamed with NBA hall-of-famer David Robinson, Duncan was able to help guide the Spurs to their first ever NBA title.
It seems odd today to say first NBA title for a franchise that has become synonyms with winning.
The Spurs were always a good franchise before Duncan, but Duncan would make them great and move them to the upper echelon of NBA teams along with the Bulls, Lakers and Celtics. Before Duncan non of that was thought possible and now it is almost as something that has always been.
In an age where most stars leave small markets for the glitz and the glam of the NBA high profile cities, Duncan stayed in dusty old San Antonio and in the process turned the once NBA backwater into one of the most desirable locations in the league and it was all because of a simple approach of basketball fundamentals and winning.
Statistically Duncan is not the greatest power forward ever. In their primes Karl Malone, Charles Barkley and Bob Pettit all put up better numbers. Yet Duncan consistently dominated on both ends of the floor and when it mattered most in the clutch he would come through for his team.
Five NBA championships is a rarity in the history of the game. Even one can be extremely elusive, just ask the three players mentioned above who in total have just one ring. Duncan by comparison has one ring for each finger on a hand.
For 19 years fans could count on the Spurs being a title contender.
Even when things looked like they were over for the franchise and they would need to rebuild the team and Duncan always found a way to reinvent themselves and win.
Unlike most superstars, Duncan never sought the spot light. He was content to just do his thing. He did not publicly pander for accolades and awards, and he did not slander other teams or players publicly. The announcement that he is retiring with so little fan fare is so Tim Duncan like that it could only be done by Tim Duncan.
It will be a sad strange sight come November when the Spurs take the court again that there will be no #21 in the silver and black any longer.