6. Kobe Bryant warns Shaq about Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs
Continuing the legendary Lakers theme, Kobe Bryant was the other half of the two-headed snake that struck the Spurs down so often in their prime. The Black Mamba averaged 23. 6 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.2 assists through 61 games against San Antonio in his career.
With playoffs and regular season included, Duncan and Bryant went head-to-head for the equivalent of an entire NBA season, with Tim winning the 82-game series 43-39. No one could've known how intense and lengthy the rivalry would be, but Bryant recognized at an early age just how dangerous Duncan was.
“We were about to move on from the first round of the 1999 playoffs," said Kobe. "I remember asking Shaq if he was ready. “For what?” He questioned. “This boy we’re seeing in the next round,” I replied. “Robinson?” “Nah, the other one.” “He’s soft,” said Shaq. “I’ve been watching him all year,” Bryant responded, “and he’s a problem that you’re going to have to deal with.”
Bryant then reveals Shaq just waved his warning off. Then, the Spurs swept the Lakers out of the playoffs on the way to their first NBA title. "I realized San Antonio would be a threat we'd have to deal with for all of eternity," continued Bryant. As it turned out, he was right.
5. Tim Duncan teaches Etan Thomas mid-game
When you're playing a sport at the highest level, you don't expect your opponent to be helping you out in the middle of a game. Yet, that's exactly what Tim Duncan once did when facing Etan Thomas in a regular season game.
In a 2016 Facebook post, the retired center shared his Tim Duncan story, which was recounted in a Business Insider article focusing on great Duncan stories. The post perfectly encapsulated what Tim was like as a person and competitor.
"We're playing the Spurs and I get the ball on the post," started Thomas. "I inside pivot and sweep to the middle for my jump hook and he blocks it. So as we are running down the court, he says to me, 'that was a good move, but you have to get more into my body so you can either draw the foul or I can't block it,' [I] just kind of looked at him confused and said ok."
As it turned out, Duncan's advice somewhat worked, as Thomas was able to get his hook shot off a few plays later, although he missed it. "Much better," assured Tim.
"Tim is honestly one of the nicest guys in the NBA and the best power forward in NBA history," continued Thomas.
This is one of my personal favorite player stories ever, as it showcases Duncan's humility to help a center that was struggling to find minutes for much of his career.