Tim Duncan’s Aversion To Big Egos Goes Back To A Research Paper He Co-Authored In College

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Tim Duncan has finally retired, putting a cap on one of the greatest careers in NBA history, done in an absolutely singular way. Of all the praises sung for Tim in the immediate wake of his departure (and there have been many), many of them focused on his humility. Duncan might have had the biggest gap between his skill on the court and his presence in the media as any modern athlete will ever have, and that was by design.

The drawbacks of being overly egotistical were something Duncan learned all the way back in college, as ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh dug up:

Yes, that’s a psychology research paper, titled Blowhards, Snobs and Narcissists: Interpersonal Reactions to Excessive Egotism, on which an undergraduate student named Timothy Duncan was listed as a co-author. Undergrads tend to get on papers like this for doing a large amount of grunt work rather than coming up with the big ideas, so don’t let anyone tell you Tim came up with it, but still: Duncan was intimately, academically familiar with the negative effects of egotism on others.

Just in case you don’t feel like poring over an academic research paper from the ’90s, here’s a sentence we pulled to give you an example of how nicely the subject of this paper dovetails with Timmy’s off-court reticence to talk about himself:

…[I]ronically, people who advertise their accomplishments appear not to realize that their sense of self-importance has a negative effect on other people’s reactions to them or that others see them as egotistical and arrogant.

Part of the reason may lie in the fact that people typically do not challenge egotistical people on their behavior. This may be particularly true for individuals who are truly superior and acclaimed in a particular area; even superstars’ best friends may hesitate to tell them that they have become haughty. And, even if the egotist perceives that others are responding unfavorably, he or she may attribute others’ reactions to envy rather than justified annoyance.

And thus did a college-age Tim Duncan co-author a paper outlining how self-centered stars can call out any criticism as simply being a “hater.” Tim saw this coming back in the ’90s, and he never fell into the trap.

(Via Google Books, h/t Tom Haberstroh)