From the very first game of his NBA career, the San Antonio Spurs could tell that Tim Duncan was on his way to being a culture changer.
Did you know that Tim Duncan made his NBA debut on Halloween in 1997? It’s true; The Big Fundamental debuted for the San Antonio Spurs in an 11-point victory in the Mile High City. It was at this moment that the league took a good look at him and recognized he was a player to be feared. While his numbers may not shatter the record books, Timmy put up a considerable effort in 35 minutes of play.
Duncan shot 6-for-9 from the field and 3-of-5 from the charity stripe for 15 points. From the jump, Duncan found himself making an impact as a rebounder. His positioning and timing allowed him to snag defensive rebounds and push the tempo on the fastbreak, handling the ball in short spurts while finding his point guard, Avery Johnson. This is what led to Duncan’s first NBA bucket, a contested layup after being fed by Vinny Del Negro.
In addition to his 15 points, Timmy had two emphatic swats in the competition. Each of these instances sent a message to opposing bigs: Don’t go in Duncan’s paint expecting to get an easy shot. Oftentimes, veterans disregard rookies trying to make an early impact, but Duncan forced the Nuggets’ hand after working to get himself acclimated to NBA physicality and pace.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 31, 2020
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It was easier for bigs to transition to NBA play at the time since the game was catered better toward them. Perimeter shooting wasn’t nearly the X-Factor it has since become and the pace of play was significantly slower. Teams simply weren’t taking as many field goal attempts, so Duncan was able to utilize his raw instinct and athleticism to force opponents into tough shots and give them hell whenever the ball touched his hands.
Duncan finished with a double-double that was comprised of nine defensive rebounds and one on the offensive glass. He also dished out two assists — A sign of great things to come.
Speaking on behalf of someone who was born in ’98, it’s easy for younger Spurs fans to forget who athletically gifted Duncan was. Maybe he didn’t have the verticality of a modern NBA athlete, but Timmy was deceptively quick, never shied away from big moments and used his physical tools to great advantage. That long reach and incredible instinct helped him rotate on defense, leak out on the fastbreak and contest any shot in his reach. This was on full display against Denver.
Timmy walked out of his first game with a double-double and a win. The rest is history.