Death, taxes, and Tim Duncan are the three constants in life; however, The Big Fundamental has finally hung it up. Even though he is gone, his impact will never be forgotten.
Every regular season game, every playoff game, every overtime nail- biter, every rodeo road trip back-to back (except the occasional “DNP old“), the Spurs reliable Big Three would be there. Trotting out in Silver & Black, with Gregg Popovich barking commands in the background.
The Spurs had become a given, a rare guarantee in life. They had a philosophy on how to play basketball and went out and played. No added flare, no extra commotion, just pure basketball.
Apr 24, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan (21) blocks the shot of Memphis Grizzlies guard Vince Carter (15) during the second half in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at FedExForum. San Antonio Spurs defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 116 – 95. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
The extra pass, the always stout defense, the focus on defensive rebounds, communication, it all starts and finishes with Duncan. The Spurs last No. 1 pick, whose basketball career would become the model for the term “franchise player”.
Duncan’s leadership is one of the most overlooked things in basketball history. He is possibly the best teammate of all time, and his dedication to his guys has always been the glue to any Spurs’ unit from 1997 to 2016.
Ever since Duncan’s NBA big brother left him in 2003 (David Robinson), Duncan has been pounding the rock with his fellow Hall of Famers’ Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili ever since. Tallying 575 wins together, the Spurs big three are the most successful trio in the history of the NBA.
After four championships (2003, 2005, 2007, 2014) and recording 50 wins and a 60 percent winning percentage in every season, the Spurs are the NBA’s role model and blueprint, and their big three is like no other.
The big threes of today’s NBA are very different to the Spurs’ long lasting dynasty. The Cleveland Cavaliers paid big money to retain LeBron James, drafted Kryie Irving No. 1 overall in 2011, and traded two other No. 1 overall picks (Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett) for Kevin Love (who then received a big 5-year $110 million contract). These new age Cavaliers have been to two straight finals and took down the 73 win Warriors in this years finals.
James came to Cleveland from another infamous big three, as James and Chris Bosh famously signed with Miami in 2010 to form a big three with Dwyane Wade. The Heat won in 2012 and 2013 with expensive and spontaneous superstar paring. This was after James lost to the Celtics’ big three.
Paul Pierce was joined in Boston by Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen when the Celtics doled out Al Jefferson and Jeff Green, forming a big three of their own that won in 2008 and lost a seven game war to the Lakers in 2010.
The most Spurs-like big three in recent NBA years was the Warriors drafting Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green all on their own and going to the last two finals wining the title in 2015. However, the comparison falls apart now with the singing of former MVP Kevin Durant.
The Spurs built their peculiar dynasty completely from within. The luck the Spurs’ had landing the No. 1 pick in 1997 was made up for by their own genius discovering Emmanuel Ginobili with the 57th pick in 1999 and stealing Tony Parker 28th overall in 2001.
The only big threes that compare with Duncan – Ginobili – Parker are Bird – McHale – Parish and Magic – Kareem – Worthy, although neither of those parings lasted as long as the Spurs’ did. There might have been stretches of three player trios in NBA history that were as good or better than the Spurs recent group, but none of them were united as long or had as much sustained success.
No longer in sports do families like the Spurs come around. Where the sum of the parts is the only concern. An ego-less team that has only one priority, winning. Tim Duncan’s selfless attitude and willingness to sacrifice for the guy next to him has built what is known today as “The Spurs Way”.
Even though Tim is never going to suit up and hug the spalding at center court berfore tip off again, his impact on the Spurs and all of the NBA is set in history. The entire Spurs organization was built in his demeanor, and it will live on just as he would want it to, quietly.