There are many reasons why the San Antonio Spurs have become one of the best and most successful franchises in the history of professional sports. They have a phenomenal front office, a world-class head coach, and a system that develops superstars. And until the conclusion of the 2015–16 season, they had Tim Duncan. After 19 seasons in the NBA, the greatest player the organization has ever seen and arguably the main driving force behind the franchise’s run of excellence, called it a career.
For the first time in as long as we can remember, there’s a feeling that a monumental chapter in the league’s history officially closed. It’s hard to sufficiently describe what Duncan brought to the game of basketball, but we think commissioner Adam Silver did a nice job summing it up:
Tim Duncan is one of the most dominant players in NBA history. His devotion to excellence and mastery of the game led to five NBA championships, two regular-season MVP awards and a place among the all-time greats, while his understated selflessness made him the ultimate teammate.
For two decades Tim represented the Spurs, the city of San Antonio and the league with passion and class. All of us in the NBA family thank him for his profound impact on the game.
As one of the greatest players of all time, and arguably the best power forward ever, steps away from game of basketball, we can’t help but think back to all those times when The Big Fundamental stepped onto the floor, stayed true to himself, and let his game do the talking. In a career filled with epic performances, these seven stand out among the rest.
7. Duncan helps Spurs stave off elimination in ’06
Down 3-1 against the Dallas Mavericks in the 2006 Western Conference Semifinals, the Spurs needed a monster performance in Game 5 from The Big Fundamental in order to avoid an early postseason exit. In true Duncan fashion, he delivered. In just over 44 minutes, Timmy shot 13 for 19 from the field, made 10 of 15 free-throw attempts, and finished the contest with 36 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, one steal, and three blocks. San Antonio would pull off the W in a hard-fought 98-97 victory and live to see another day.
6. Duncan almost brings the Spurs back in Game 7
In that same 2006 playoff series, the Spurs battled back to force a much-anticipated Game 7. While the Mavs ended up winning the contest in overtime 119-111, and thus taking the series, Duncan almost singlehandedly willed San Antonio to victory, scoring a game-high 41 points — on 12 for 24 shooting and 17 for 23 from the charity stripe — to go along with 15 rebounds, six assists, one steal, and three blocks.
5. Duncan goes for over 50
Despite Duncan’s overwhelming talent, most people never really considered him a bona fide “scorer.” On December 26, 2001, in a regular-season clash against the Mavericks, this was not the case.
Although Dallas went on to win the affair in overtime by a score of 126-123, the road team had no answer for Duncan, who dropped a career-high 53 points, pulled down 11 rebounds, dished out four assists, and added three blocks. To add insult to injury, Timmy also shot 19 for 28 from the field and knocked down all 15 of his free-throw attempts. That’s a bad man right there.
4. Duncan delivers in Game 3 of the 2003 Western Conference Finals
The great players are the ones who step up and deliver on the road. On May 23, 2003, during Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, Duncan did just that. The Big Fundamental hit 12 of 19 shots, went 10 for 14 from the free-throw line, and finished the game with 34 points, 24 rebounds, six assists, two steals, and six blocks. Once again, the Dallas Mavericks simply had no answer for Duncan in the postseason.
3. Duncan starts the 2008 postseason off right
In 2008, the Phoenix Suns faced the difficult task of trying to defeat the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the NBA playoffs. It only took one game for No. 21 to set the tone for the entire series. Behind Duncan’s brilliant 40-point, 15-rebound, and five-assist performance, which included a game-tying three at the end of the first extra frame, the Spurs defeated the Suns 117-115 in double overtime. That’s what we like to call “Vintage Timmy.”
2. Duncan sets the tone in the 2003 NBA Finals
When the San Antonio Spurs and the New Jersey Nets squared off in the 2003 NBA Finals, the series went six games before the team from Texas took home the title. Yet, we only needed to watch Game 1 to understand the kind of punishment Duncan intended to dish out on the opposition. In a 101-89 San Antonio victory, Timmy went 11 for 17 from the field, hit 10 of 14 free throws, and finished the game with 32 points, 20 rebounds, six assists, three steals, and seven blocks. With a stat line like this, the Nets never stood a chance.
1. Duncan’s near quadruple-double
It takes a superhuman effort to pull off a quadruple-double in an NBA game; that’s why only a few players have ever accomplished the feat. Tim Duncan is not one of them, but he sure as hell came close.
In the 2003 NBA Finals, in a series-clinching Game 6 win, Duncan scored 21 points, grabbed 20 rebounds, dished out 10 assists, and had eight blocks. With what we consider to be the most impressive performance of his incredible career, Duncan showed why he is arguably the greatest power forward in the history of the game.