In fact, Doc Rivers, who coached Orlando at the time, has since said the Hall of Famer had all but committed to jumping ship to Florida until everything fell apart. “Tim Duncan looked at me and said, ‘I’m pretty sure I’m coming to the Magic,' " said Rivers in a 2020 interview. But he also revealed that Duncan wanted to have one last meeting with Gregg Popovich because of their close relationship.
As Rivers tells it, that last meeting with Popovich, one in which David Robinson flew in from Hawaii to convince Tim to stay, put an end to Orlando's bid. Of course, there's a more popular story as to what the biggest nail in the Magic's coffin was.
Bruce Bowen mentioned where he believes Doc lost Tim during a Clippers broadcast in 2017:
"Tim asked if family can come on the flights to some games, and from what I understand, Doc said no. That's where he lost Tim Duncan," said Bowen.
In an amusing clip from The Jump in 2018, Grant Hill, who was also being recruited by Orlando that summer, confirmed Bowen's account. "I was at the dinner when someone in Tim's entourage asked Doc if significant others can travel on the plane. Doc said no." Apparently unaware of the story at the time, Tracy McGrady didn't handle the news well.
Grant Hill shares who really asked Doc Rivers the infamous question
While it was previously attributed to Tim or someone else in his group, Hill finally shared on a recent episode of All the Smoke that it was Tim Duncan's girlfriend herself that asked the infamous question.
"Doc said no. It's a business trip -- that doesn't happen. I don't allow that," said Hill. "I didn't know San Antonio had started doing that. I was thinking that was a bold question. I didn't pay much attention to it." Hill didn't really think much of the exchange until his wife Tamia pointed out what she noticed.
"He ain't coming," she told him. "When she asked that question, her whole body language changed with that response."
Based on how many separate accounts seem to believe the fatal blow was dealt by Orlando's flight policy, it seems likely Doc's account is a way of saving face. Might Tim's meeting with Pop and Robinson have swayed him back to San Antonio? Sure.
But it certainly looks like the lack of flexibility with family travel was the biggest reason Duncan never became a member of the Orlando Magic in 2000.
Thanks, Doc. We all owe you one.