One of the greatest indicators of an athlete’s value is what a team does before he or she arrives and what a team does after he or she arrives. In the case of Tim Duncan, who retired Monday after 19 brilliant NBA seasons, the San Antonio Spurs went from good to great – almost overnight.
“Before Tim Duncan came, the Spurs were always a good team, but they were never good enough,” Spurs reporter Hector Ledesma said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “He gets here, and since he got here, there’s been no team in any of the four pro sports that has a better winning percentage than Tim Duncan does. You add the five titles – and specifically within those titles, you look at the specifics (that) Tim Duncan worked with. He never worked with a fellow top-10 NBA (player) of all time.”
Many of the other all-time greats did.
“Magic had Kareem and vice versa,” Ledesma said. “Kobe had Shaq and vice versa. Tim had David Robinson. And as much as I love David Robinson – and as much as David Robinson is the second-best player in Spurs history and also on that Spurs’ Mount Rushmore – David Robinson is not regarded in the same light, if not for Tim Duncan. In other words, if not for Tim, then David Robinson kind of is remembered more along the lines of Karl Malone and Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller as the guys who didn’t get a ring. David was able to get two rings because Tim arrived. When the second-best teammate you ever had is a guy you helped elevate – and you played with him at the end of his career – (it’s impressive). Tim didn’t play with 1995 MVP David Robinson. He played with 1999 David Robinson and ’03-six-points-a-game-and-five-rebounds-a-game David Robinson.”
Indeed, Duncan led the Spurs to an NBA title in his second season in 1999, won three titles in five years with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, and won his final title in 2014 with The Big Three and Kawhi Leonard.
“To win two titles with David, then three total with The Big Three of Tony and Manu and then to win another one as Kawhi is coming on the scene (shows how consistent he was),” Ledesma said. “I think the fact that he’s been such a winner over the last 20 years (says a lot).”
Duncan, 40, won five NBA titles, three Finals MVPs, two regular-season MVPs and was a 15-time All-Star. He almost single-handedly carried multiple teams to championships.
“Name me someone else who could have won a championship with Stephen Jackson as their second-best player for that season,” Ledesma said. “I’m speaking of the 2003 Spurs. Tony Parker was a rookie and was so bad in the playoffs that he was benched in the Finals. Manu was rookie Manu. He’s giving you eight points per game. David Robinson, as I mentioned, is in the last year of his career. Yet, Tim Duncan carries that team to ending the three-peat of the Kobe-Shaq Lakers and then on to winning the franchise’s second championship. I think when it’s all said and done, we’re going to look back at Tim Duncan’s career and think, ‘Wow, maybe he wasn’t surrounded with the types of teammates that we maybe thought he was when he was playing.’”