Jun 5, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) talks with head coach Gregg Popovich during the first half against the Miami Heat in game one of the 2014 NBA Finals at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
As 2014-2015 goes, the San Antonio Spurs can count on having Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich back. Still, when the time comes, should they depart together?
San Antonio Spurs dynasty didn’t begin until those two came along
Magic Johnson said once in an interview that one of his bigger regrets was returning to play in the NBA in 1994. His reasoning at the time was he felt he could still play after being forced to retire due to his HIV diagnosis in 1991. He didn’t realize until later that by returning it ruined his chance to go into the basketball Hall of Fame with longtime rival and good friend Larry Bird since the Celtics great retired that same season. Every player must wait at least five years after retirement before consideration. Johnson believes the symbolism of them entering the Hall together after working so hard to save the league in the 1980s would’ve been something special.
Such events just don’t happen very often in sports, and that is something the San Antonio Spurs have to think about regarding their future Hall of Fame core of head coach Gregg Popovich and forward Tim Duncan. Nobody really knew what they would accomplish when they came together in 1997. Seventeen years and five championship trophies later and they are in serious contention for the best coach-player duo in basketball history. Both have committed to return for the upcoming season in hopes of adding to the legacy, but looking beyond that is it unreasonable to consider how incredible it would be if Pop and T-Dunc departed the game at the same time?
It would virtually guarantee their entry into the Hall of Fame the same year since both are first ballot locks. Given how the Spurs love to be on the cutting edge of pro sports trends, being the first player-coach tandem to reach Springfield simultaneously would be a news story for the ages.
Will it happen? It’s too early to say. Popovich did just sign a contract extension but there is no telling the future. Time has a way of changing minds, especially when legacies are at stake.