SAN ANTONIO—Tim Duncan spent nearly two decades as the quiet storm in the middle of the San Antonio Spurs’ franchise—putting the team on his broad shoulders and carrying it to heights unseen in modern American sports.
With Duncan as the focal point, the Spurs won five NBA championships, made the playoffs in all 19 of his seasons, and cemented themselves as one of the most successful franchises in all of sports.
Now, the tireless and reluctant superstar finally is calling it a career. The 40-year-old Duncan announced his retirement today, marking the end of an era for the Spurs and the NBA.
“The greatest power forward ever,” the L.A. Clippers’ Jamal Crawford said today as the tributes to Duncan’s career began coming.
Few would dare argue.
Duncan was the No. 1 overall pick in 1997 and teamed with coach Gregg Popovich, point guard Tony Parker, and shooting guard Manu Ginobili to turn the Spurs from a solid franchise that never could quite get over the hump into one of the league’s superpowers.
The unassuming Duncan won two MVP awards and was one of just four players to be named NBA Finals MVP at least three times.
He was a 15-time all-star, a member of the All-NBA first team 10 times, and is one of only three players—joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parrish—to win at least 1,000 games in his career.
He is fifth on the NBA’s career list in blocks, sixth in rebounds, and 14th in scoring.
“The constant staple of their franchise,” Cleveland’s LeBron James said earlier this year.
Duncan never was one for big endorsement deals or look-at-me press conferences, which is why he often was overshadowed in the public eye by more outsized personalities like James and Kobe Bryant, who also retired this year after 20 seasons (all with the L.A. Lakers).
But he leaves this game as one of the league’s true giants—perhaps the best power forward to ever play and one who left as indelible a mark on his franchise as any player to come before him.
The announcement comes two months after the Spurs were upset by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semi-finals—a six-game exit that immediately had people wondering (yet again) if it was Duncan’s last hurrah.
Turns out, it was.
And like everything else Duncan did in his career (aside from win), he retired quietly, with a statement from the team.
There will be no victory lap for Duncan; no farewell tour like the one Bryant had this season.
Popovich would be available to address Duncan’s decision tomorrow, the Spurs said.