The first time I thought about the day Timothy Theodore Duncan would retire was probably on May 22, 2006. That day San Antonio lost to Dallas in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals and NBA analysts began applying the term “old” to the Spurs.
I thought about it again on June 14, 2007, when San Antonio won its 4th NBA title. I thought about it on April 29, 2011; June 6, 2012; June 20, 2013; June 15, 2014; and a lot days both in between and since.
Of course I didn’t know I was thinking about July 11, 2016 specifically. How could I have? But I knew the events of that day would come because no one can play in the NBA forever — not even Tim Duncan, who from time to time appeared impervious to the passage of time.
And yet despite all of the time I spent thinking about that day, I was woefully unprepared for its arrival. I nearly started crying. I rambled to friends and coworkers, struggling to capture why I felt more grief than closure. I lashed out at hapless Internet trolls as if they were speaking ill of the dead. I retweeted stat after stat demonstrating Duncan’s greatness, hoping that in some way I could make up for all the days I didn’t think about that day and backfill them with gratitude.
The harsh truth is, there was no amount of premeditation that could have prepared me for that day. Everyone has constants both big and small, and losing one of those constants, even a seemingly minor one, is unsettling in the truest sense of the word.