2. Dirk Nowitzki praises Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs' winning culture
Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan had one of the most intense yet quiet NBA rivalries in NBA history. Both introverted personalities, they always let their games do the talking for them and faced each other an astounding 90 times.
The careers of the two timeless power forwards will forever be linked in many ways beyond their classic battles as division rivals. Tim and Dirk are two of just four players to spend 19 or more seasons with one franchise, with Dirk's 21 being an NBA record.
It was that loyalty to the team that you have to respect about both guys, especially considering the direction the league is now heading, with new superteams forming every season.
After Tim's quiet retirement announcement in 2016, Dirk offered some thoughts on his career, as reported by The Dallas News:
“I am sorry to see Tim retire,” Nowitzki said. “I have so much respect for him. He was so good. He could do it all: pass, score on both blocks, drive, rebound, block shots. He wasn’t flashy and always put the team first. I will always appreciate that he was about winning and never worried about the limelight. The league will miss him.”
What's great about this whole quote is that it all applies to Dirk as well. He went on to call Tim the greatest power forward ever, and it's safe to say Dirk is right there behind him.
1. "I feel very flattered." - Bill Russell on comparisons to Tim Duncan
Speaking of always being about winning, no one can touch the great Bill Russell in that department. Russell will likely never be touched when it comes to championships won, retiring with 11 rings, all with the Boston Celtics from 1957-69.
While he doesn't qualify as an opponent, Russell belongs at the top of this list since he undoubtedly influenced every big man that ever wanted to be great, and Duncan was no exception. That's what made Russell's comments in a 2009 one-on-one interview with Tim so special.
"It's kind of eerie, the similarities we've had in our lives and careers," said Duncan. Russell agreed, saying he finds it very flattering. He then told a remarkable story about being Jackie Robinson's favorite athlete and how that tied to his feelings about Tim.
"You've played hard, played smart, won championships. I don't think you're finished with that yet," predicted Russell. As it turned out, Bill was right. Tim won a fifth and final ring with the Spurs in 2014.
Bill was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975. In 2021, he'll be joined by one of his favorite players, none other than Tim Duncan.
Tim Duncan Week continues here with a post shattering a myth about Tim.