It was an as usual hot and steamy day in May on the southside of San Antonio. On that 18th of May, a day that will live in infamy for any person growing up or living in San Antonio that grew up a Spurs fan. That season had been miserable. Chuck Person, Sean Elliott, David Robinson had all been on the injured list all season. They had struggled while fielding players like Jamie Feick, Cadillac Anderson, Jason Sasser, Devin Gray, and free agency failure Carl Herrera. Starting lineups included Will Perdue, Dominique WIlkins, along with Vinnie Del Negro and Avery Johnson. After David Robinson broke his foot and it was clear he would miss the rest of the season, reality had set in. No playoffs and they were headed for the lottery. I mean my god, it was the thing I’d watched during halftime of Spurs playoff games.
They would be amongst the likes of Dallas, Boston, Denver, Golden State, and ugh, the Clippers. Well wait, even that season the Clippers made the playoffs!! GOD! HOW EMBARRASSING!!! So, at the age of 16, I booted up my Apple macintosh and got online through AOL. I patiently waited as I looked up college player’s stats. The Spurs clearly needed a power forward to replace the aging and injured Terry Cummings. So the first player that stood out? Adonal Foyle. He lead the nation in rebounding at Colgate. Keith Van Horn, I didn’t like, he really made me think tall lanky and soft. Tim Duncan? Oh, yeah well the Spurs arent getting him, he’s gonna go to Boston. Boston that year had lots of draft picks, and had actually been worse than the Spurs.
I had estimated at the time, the Spurs will draft third most likely. So for weeks I followed stats, Foyle stayed up at the top of rebounds. So I figured, him next to Robinson would be fantastic! He could be a normal Rodman! How about Tony Battie? He would look good blocking shots next to D-Rob, but eh, he’d get taken too most likely. So for the longest time I ignored Duncan. Spurs weren’t getting him, but I watched him on TV and wished he would come. Logically though, nah. So time went by and finally. FINALLY! The 18th of May had come. As Russ Granik pulled the logos from the envelopes, Cleveland first. Ugly logo, next. Indiana. Tough but, another playoff compatriot in the lottery.Sacramento, Milwaukee, and Toronto went by. Totally as planned. Golden State, then New Jersey. Boston at 6! Wow I thought, 1 and 6, they’re gonna own next year. 5 Denver. Hmm, strange, guess we got 4. Vancouver, understandable but strange they weren’t allowed to have the #1 pick yet anyways.
Then Boston came out again. My jaw dropped, OMG we have one of the top 2 picks!!!! Then Granik and I remember this like yesterday, struggled opening the second envelope. As he slid the card out the Philadelphia 76ers logo was revealed and I literally jumped up and ran around the house screaming. WE GOT DUNCAN WE GOT DUNCAN WE GOT DUNCAN!!!!! Didn’t hear till later Peter Holt’s chortles of joy. As soon as everything calmed down, it was just a matter of time till June 28th rolled around and it would be official.
We fast forward to the first game. A game that any other year would’ve just been a scroll page on ESPN. A battle of two lottery teams from the previous year, San Antonio in Denver. However for us San Antonians we were glued to the TV. It was a late start, however, we stayed up. Watching Duncan next to Robinson was a dream come true. He moved like a guard. Del Negro and Elliott feeding him in the post.It was amazing. It was awesome. We had a really awesome forward that was dominating!!! Robinson dominating defensively was one thing, what Duncan was doing though, was totally different. That regular season would go on to be a fun one. A rookie of the year fun one.
We fast forward past the rookie of the year campaign, the playoff second round failure to Utah, mainly due to Duncan spraining his ankle in game 4. A long fall and winter without basketball. A horrible NBA lockout had prevented us from seeing Duncan’s second year campaign. It was my senior year of high school so, it was OK, I was distracted. However, basketball started back up again in January. The Spurs started out horribly, 9-11. Would Pop be fired? San Antonio’s fans demanded it. They wanted Doc Rivers, the popular color commentator of Spurs games, to take over. The season turned around, the Spurs went on a winning streak, secured the division and the #1 spot in the playoffs. They quickly dispatched of Minnesota and LA in 8 games total. The sweep of the Lakers being pretty sweet. Then Portland, the memorial day miracle. In game 4 the Spurs routed the Blazers, the highlight Tim Duncan blocking Brian Grant ferociously as the Spurs rolled and won the Western Conference.
Holy cow, were in the Finals!!!! We get the cool Finals trophy on our jerseys!!! We get cool new Western Champion shirts!!! All so new! Awesome! Then the Finals. I was privileged enough to be able to go to game 1. The pageantry, the cameras. Stars everywhere. It was a jaw dropping experience. On the floor the NBA FINALS logo wrap was down. It was just amazing. The game was a blur. The Spurs won going away in the second half. Duncan was dominant, and that was that. Sadly we had to leave town and my parents had to get back to work at the family business. Watching on the small 13 inch TV in California I watched as Spreewell airballed his fadeaway. Elliott slammed the ball down, and wow. The Spurs were champions of the world. It was surreal. It didn’t seem true. The shirts, the hats. The sports illustrated commercials. All of it. Would finally feature my little old San Antonio Spurs. All the kids in school who rooted for Chicago, or the Lakers. I finally got to throw something back at em!
Now we fast forward to modern day today May 23rd. nearly 16 years and 5 days after that wonderful day. It was announced at the age of 37. Tim Duncan had made the 1st team all NBA team. in his 16th season. Again, at 37. The career of Duncan has been one of a dream for us Spurs fans. A player I thought we’d never get, to a player that will
never be seen again. He’s seen players come through, Elliott, Bowen, Johnson, Del Negro, Elie, Jackson, Jaren and Stephen. Players have come and gone. Players have had their numbers retired and been inducted into the hall of fame. Duncan has seen it all along with us at home. Mind blowing come backs, Portland, Dallas, Golden State. Heartbreaking losses, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, Dallas. Oy especially game 7 vs Dallas. Never the less. Now, as I sit here, on a hot May day not much different than then. The Spurs are up 2-0 again, in the Western Conference Finals. The Spurs have again a great shot at making the NBA Finals. Its one when you sit back and analyze is a run for the ages. Its felt like a quick one however. It feels like yesterday the Kerr barrage. Ginobili’s 05 run. Horry’s threes. Michael Finley blowing up Denver. it all comes back to Duncan. Raising the trophies, the awards, the statues. A man who took a franchise that was fun and semi known, to the most respected and envied franchise in all of pro sports.
So heres to you Tim Duncan. My favorite athlete of all time, of any of my teams. You deserve the limelight, the praise, the accolades. Even though you don’t want them. It is for that fact, why all of San Antonio and I, respect you so much.
Now go win game 3.