- Mamadou Tall
Throwback Series: The Big Fundamental
The 2019-2020 season has come to an abrupt stop. With the coronavirus becoming a worldwide pandemic many NBA fans and players find themselves in a state of limbo. With no clear date in sight for the return of the NBA, let's take this time to remember and celebrate some of the greats the game has given us. Today we look back at Hall of Famer Tim Duncan's career and what made him the greatest power forward of all time. Welcome to the "Throwback Series".
Turn on ESPN today and all you will see are the flashy highlights and plays being lauded on Sportscenter. Go on Instagram and Twitter and you'll see videos of flashy passes and explosive dunks. It's rare we see the simple things and fundamentals get praised nowadays. The truth of the matter is the fundamentals get the job done, just look at Tim Duncan's career.
The nickname the "Big Fundamental" is fitting for the NBA legend and five-time champion. Throughout his 19 year career, he was the league's poster child for simplicity and minimalism and it paid dividends for him and his San Antonio Spurs. It's as simple as this: 19 seasons 19 playoff appearances, five championships in a 15-year span, and two MVP awards to show his individual dominance. Tim Duncan wasn't the one for all the theatrics and drama, he was all about results and getting the job done.
The 6'11 Duncan was drafted with the first pick by the San Antonio Spurs in 1997 after playing four years at Wake Forest. From the beginning, it was clear that he wasn't your average player. His game was polished and fundamentally sound from the jump. On a team that had the all-time great big man David Robinson, Duncan made it clear that he was the best player on the squad. He ended his rookie season averaging 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game. He helped lead the Spurs to a 56-26 record and the second round of the playoffs before falling to the John Stockton and Karl Malone Utah Jazz. This first season laid the groundwork and set the standard for the following 18 seasons of his career with the Spurs.
In 1999 (his sophomore season) at the age of 22, Duncan lead the Spurs to their first NBA championship in a gentleman's sweep against the New York Knicks. He took home the Finals MVP award making it known that he had arrived and he was going to be a force in the league for years to come. After capturing that first title in 1999 he would go on to win four more in 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2014. He helped make the Spurs the first-class organization we know them as today.
On top of being a proven champion, Duncan showcased his individual brilliance and dominance on both ends of the court. Greg Popovich and the Spurs could count on him night in and night out to give them what was needed defensively and offensively. His post-game wasn't flashy and eye-catching like Hakeem Olajuwon's was but his style was proven. With great footwork and sense for angles, Duncan made a living off of his face-up bank shots on the block. His consistency on the block always made him a viable bail-out option for the Spurs when nothing was going right offensively. Those post moves helped him put up 26,496 career points ranking him 14th on the all-time scoring list.
Defensively, he might have been the best big man during the whole 2000s era and parts of the 2010s era too. If you watched him play it was obvious that he wasn't the highest jumper or the most agile player on the court like Kevin Garnett; and that made his defensive prowess that much more impressive. He read the game beautifully. Constantly reading the offense and calculating when, where and how many steps it would take for him to rotate. The true testament of his interior defense is his career average of 2.2 blocks and 3,020 career blocks (6th all-time).
A culmination of his offensive and defensive dominance came in his back to back MVP seasons in the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003. These were his most statistically dominant seasons, the 2002-2003 season being possibly being the best season of his career. Duncan put up averages of 23 points, 13 rebounds while shooting 51% from the field. He ended the year lifting the Larry O'Brien trophy and collecting his second Finals MVP award.
Anyone who knows basketball knows that "The Big Fundamental" is an all-time great and there are no ifs, and, or buts about it. A five-time champion,three-time Finals MVP, two-time MVP, 15-time All-Star are just a few of the things he accomplished in his 19 seasons.
Duncan retired in after the 2015-2016 season in the most Tim Duncan way possible. No farewell tour, no social media post, no warning. He retired with career averages of 19 points, 11.rebounds, and 2.2 rebounds. "The Big Fundamental" was recently named as a part of the 2020 Hall of Fame inductees class, something that we all saw coming. One of the games most cerebral players Duncan has entered the next chapter in his career; coaching. As an assistant coach on the Spurs, he is under the tutelage of the great Greg Popovich. From seeing the way he approached the game this should be a smooth transition. Who knows one day he might become the head coach of Spurs when its all said and done.
In an era filled with stars, Duncan was able to distinguish himself without doing the most. No off-court scandals and no on-court antics, he just carried on with the same stoic approach for 19 years. "The Big Fundamental" was recently named as a part of the 2020 Hall of Fame inductees class, something that we all saw coming. Congratulations to a legend of the game, it was well deserved.