Sports Take: Tim Duncan is a top-five NBA player of all time

Tim Duncan, power forward with the San Antonio Spurs during pre-game warm-ups prior to a game against the Washington Wizards on Feb. 12, 2011. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

By Gio Gennero | Sports Writer

With raging greatest of all time debates and arguments for which NBA players deserve to be mentioned as top-five players ever remaining constant, there’s an athlete that’s consistently missing from a lot of lists. Often mentioned with the greats, but far too overlooked when mentioning the goats of the sport, San Antonio Spurs legend Tim Duncan should be on all of your top-five lists.

For starters, Duncan had very few weaknesses and his resume stands matches up well with Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and LeBron James, who are all regarded as top-five players. Duncan’s accolades and accomplishments alone should be enough for anyone’s top-10, undoubtedly.

To list a few:

  • 5x Champion (Across three different decades)
  • 3x Finals MVP (Tied for second-youngest ever)
  • 2x MVP (Back-to-back in 2002-03)
  • 15x All-Star (All-Star Game MVP in 2000)
  • 15x All-NBA (10 first-team)
  • 15x All-Defense (Most all-time)

I could go on for years just flipping through his resume. I could write entire books about this, but to make a 19-season story short, Duncan is simply the definition of winning.

He collected over 1,000 victories in the regular season and more playoff wins than entire franchises. Throughout his tenure, there wasn’t a single team that grabbed more wins than Duncan from 1997-2016. The only time Duncan didn’t win 50-or-more games in his career was during lockout seasons where only 50 games or less were played. Even then, in one of those lockout seasons, Duncan still drove his team to a 37-13 record.

Beyond the resume, accomplishments and debate points, the U.S. Virgin Islands native could just flat out hoop. He wasn’t flashy or loud, but more so a silent assassin in the way he quietly dominated. Longtime teammate Tony Parker said during Duncan’s jersey retirement that there was something about The Big Fundamental’s greatness that went unnoticed.

“Timmy plays the game so easy,” Parker said. “I’d talk to Manu [Ginobili] like, ‘Timmy was not that good tonight,’ and he had like 30 points and 20 rebounds. He’s the only guy that can do that. … My first two years in the league he won MVP and every night I’d look at the stat sheet and think ‘Wow, 40 [points] and 26 [rebounds] and I didn’t even see it.’ That’s crazy, that’s hard.”

Duncan has proved himself on the court over and over again, such as when he had one of the greatest games in NBA history that’s often forgotten. In the close-out game of the 2003 NBA Finals, he tallied an absurd 20 points, 21 boards, 10 assists and eight blocks. Which, in my opinion, was robbed of the two blocks that would’ve been the first and only quadruple-double in the finals.

One of the biggest arguments thrown back and forth between Jordan and James as the G.O.A.T. is the competition they faced and the help they had. To put things into perspective, Duncan played from the end of the Jordan era, through the Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal era and through most of the James era.

A common suggestion is that Duncan played with guards Parker and Manu Ginobili for his “whole career.” However, by the time those two were at the level people remember them as, Duncan had already willed the Spurs to two championships and won his two MVPs. Last season when the NBA released its Top 75 players ever, both of Duncans alleged saviors were left off of the list.

I’ll leave it at this: if those two aren’t in your top 75 then Duncan better be in your top five.