Tim Duncan has retired, which means that today the NBA is a less dope place than it was yesterday, but which also means that we can travel back to when it wasn’t today. We can go to 2003, when Duncan was playing his sixth season with the San Antonio Spurs. His excellence here is so inevitable and workmanlike and studied that the league is hard to imagine without his influence every spring. He felt like he’d always been here when he arrived, and he feels like he’ll always be here on his way out.
So, anyway, here is Tim Duncan in 2003. He collects 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, and eight blocks in Game 5 of NBA Finals against the New Jersey Nets, clinching his second of five championships in the process. Duncan makes quick turns into hook shots, steps matter of factly to the rim on defense, and sees and orchestrates everything before anyone else knows what has happened. He misses no beats, nothing.
He is a louder version of the rookie who was a veteran in his mind — his mind which usually controlled the court — and scored 19 points to go with 22 rebounds in his first week as an NBA player against Michael Jordan and the reigning champion Chicago Bulls. The same moot, secret enthusiasm and motivation lurked beneath a bored-looking march toward the gold through all of Duncan’s career.
It will be missed.