The NBA has gone through a tremendous amount of change in the last few weeks. Kevin Durant is with the Warriors, Dwayne Wade signed with the Bulls, but perhaps the biggest shock next year will be that Tim Duncan is no longer going to be on the court. Duncan announced his retirement earlier this month, and for the past 19 years Duncan had what could be considered to be the most successful sports career of all time. Disagree? You may change your tune by the end of this list.
Below you’ll learn all about the life of Tim Duncan. Why he picked up a basketball, the impact of losing his mom to cancer and you’ll even hear about the rumors started by his ex-wife that he was sleeping with his male best friend. You may also know Duncan as a Spur, but do you remember which team nearly signed him in free agency and the role his wife played in preventing it?
You’ll also get a comprehensive look at his career, his time at Wake Forest, and you’ll hear from the man himself as to why it was time to step away.
There is never going to be another player quite like Timmy D, but his talent on the court is matched by his humility and genuine nature off the court.
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20. Why He Stepped Away
When Tim Duncan decided to retire at the end of this NBA season, there weren’t many people that were all too shocked. After all, 19 seasons is a long time to put your body through the amount of physical force that it takes to succeed in the NBA. Yet even if we saw it coming, it doesn’t make it any less sad or make people wonder any less why it was that Duncan decided this past year was to be his last one.
In an interview with internet radio station Vivid, Duncan admitted that his decision to retire became obvious. He said, “I started not enjoying myself as much. It wasn’t fun as much, when it’s not fun anymore, I’m done.”
19. He Doesn’t Care About Being Considered Number One
When you put together a career with the numbers that Duncan has, there is nobody that would argue when they say that he was the greatest power forward to ever play the game. There are others who think Duncan was the best player to ever play, regardless of position. Yet when Duncan was asked as to where he ranked himself, he admitted that it was not something that he thought about.
“I don’t know how their ranking goes or anything else, and I tell people I don’t really care how the rankings go. I’m in the conversation, I’m OK with that. That’s above and beyond anything I ever thought I would be. So I’m in the conversation. I don’t care where you rank me or what you say it is or how you want to say things go. I’m in the conversation. That in itself is an honor.”
18. He Was Inspired By His Brother In Law
Below you’re going to learn more about why it was Tim Duncan started playing basketball in the first place, but it’s also important to know that he never would have become the player he was if not for a man named Ricky Lowery. Sure, Ricky never played in the NBA but he was a point guard in university, and it was with Lowery that Duncan learned all of the smaller and more important fundamentals of the game. Granted, it also helped that Duncan was always a tall kid for his age. Duncan then played for the St. Dunstan’s Episcopal High School Team and by the time he graduated high school, was already 6’9.
In his final year at high school, Duncan was recruited by several schools but it was Wake Forest, who had physically sent their head coach to St. Croix to watch Duncan play, that ended up winning Duncan over. In his final year in high school, Duncan averaged 25 points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocks per game.
17. He Did Not Shoot In His First Game
When you watched Duncan play, it always looked like he was ahead of the game. Able to break down the plays, make the right reads and never afraid to be an unselfish player if it meant helping out the team. When he was recruited to Wake Forest, he was highly anticipated but in his first-ever game against the University of Alaska, Duncan did not take a single shot. It was the only time in Duncan’s career that he had been held scoreless in the game. When talking about it later in his career, Duncan admitted that he was afraid to shoot because the game, and the Division 1 defenders, were quicker than anything he had experienced before. It took Duncan roughly half a season for him to be able to find his comfort zone in the NCAA.
16. Stayed In School For His Mom
In the summer of 1989, Tim Duncan’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. While she remained supportive of Duncan and did her best to be there for him, she passed away in the Spring of 1990; only one day before Duncan’s 14th birthday.
Duncan threw himself into basketball, but before his mother passed away, he had promised her that he would finish his schooling and get his degree. As a result, Duncan declined to enter the 1995 draft. The following year, a salary cap was being put into place for rookies, meaning that Duncan willingly turned away millions in order to stay in school.
15. How His Rookie Year Went
Duncan was drafted first overall by the San Antonio Spurs in the 1997 draft. At the time, the two NBA teams that had the highest chance of landing Duncan via the lottery system were the Vancouver Grizzlies and the Boston Celtics. As luck would have it though, the 3rd most likely team, the Spurs, ended up landing the first spot in the draft.
The previous year, the Spurs had lost their star player David Robinson to injury and had only gone 20-62. Duncan’s rookie year was one well worth talking about as the Spurs went 52-26 with Duncan averaging 21.1 points and 11.9 rebounds a game. If that wasn’t enough, he had 57 double-doubles and won rookie of the year. They lost in the playoffs to the Utah Jazz after knocking out the Phoenix Suns the previous round.
14. What Inspires Him On The Court
Above you learned a little bit more about the relationship that Tim Duncan had with his mother, who he has also cited as one of his main inspirations in life. One of the most influential things she taught Duncan was a nursery rhyme that went, “Good, Better, Best. Never let it rest / Until your Good is Better, and your Better is your Best.”
Duncan later adopted this as his own personal motto in life. When talking about what he values both on and off the court, Duncan talked about how the three most important values are dedication, teamwork, and camaraderie. Easy to see how Duncan personified all 3 of those characteristics on a daily basis.
Duncan has also identified Magic Johnson as being one of his childhood idols.
13. Who He Thinks He’s Like
When you are trying to make an assessment on the personality of Tim Duncan, you probably aren’t going to find a lot of quotes from the man himself. Often quiet, calm and collected, Duncan was never a huge fan of the spotlight. But when asked about which character he thinks he is the most similar to, he identified Will Hunting, Matt Damon’s character from the movie Good Will Hunting.
Duncan stated “I’m just a taller, slightly less hyperactive version of the Damon character in the movie. I really enjoyed how he probed people and found out their weaknesses just by asking questions and stating outlandish remarks.”
Duncan also admitted later in the interview that he tries to avoid the limelight that comes with being an NBA player because the fame is just not his thing. Given that he’s 6’11 and one of the best basketball players of all time, you can understand that he must stand out in a crowd on a pretty regular basis in real life. At least now he’s retired and able to really soak in the solitude.
12. His Love Life
Tim Duncan got married to Amy Sherril in July 2001 and the couple had two children together. They seemed happy, but the wheels came off and the two got divorced in 2013. The divorce was anything but smooth, with Amy coming out and saying that Tim Duncan was gay.
It was reported that Duncan had his BFF that he had met in Wake Forest living with them for the first two years of their marriage together. It was even reported that Duncan bought his mysterious man a home. While Duncan did not publicly speak on the matter, his teammate Danny Green opened up saying “Timmy is Tim. I’m not going to look at him any differently. He’s my teammate regardless of his sexual preferences.”
When divorce was first filed, it was reportedly because of discord and conflict. The Spurs came out and admitted that Duncan was going through emotional turmoil during that NBA season, but the Spurs were still able to make it to game 7 in the NBA Finals.
11. Why He Started Playing Basketball
When you look at how amazing Duncan was on the basketball court, you may think that it was always going to be his natural path to fame and fortune. Yet when Duncan was growing up in St. Croix on the U.S. Virgin Islands, it was swimming that was his passion.
His sister Tricia was an internationally ranked swimmer and had competed at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. With Duncan’s long body, you can imagine he was also pretty good in the pool with his specialty being the 400-meter freestyle.
Duncan was a lock to make the Olympics in Barcelona for the Virgin Islands swimming team but had higher aspirations of swimming for the U.S. Team. Unfortunately on September 17th, 1989, Hurricane Hugo hit St.Croix and it decimated the swim team’s pool. As a result, practices were moved to the ocean.
10. He Lost $25 Million
Tim Duncan definitely seems like an intelligent guy, but unfortunately, even the smartest of athletes can be prone to making awful decisions with money or trusting the wrong guy. In 2015, Duncan came out and sued Charles Banks, a former financial advisor who Duncan said swindled him for over $25 million. The two met during Duncan’s rookie campaign, and Banks “encouraged, promoted, hustled and advised Duncan to invest in several wineries and investment funds that he controls.”
As well as this, Duncan claimed that his signature was forged several times and that he only became aware of this when he was trying to get his assets in order for his divorce (more on that below). Duncan also claimed that Banks took $7.5 million that Duncan invested in his company and used it for personal benefit.
When talking about the incident, Duncan showed a level of calmness. “The bottom line is this: You can’t be angry at yourself. I keep going back to this word, but I trusted someone, I was wrong about it. I got screwed over for it. I’m not mad at myself for that. That’s a lesson learned. I’ll never put myself in that situation again.”
9. The Value He Added To The Spurs
When it comes to identifying how players can add value to a franchise, you can definitely look at the number of wins. But let’s be honest, owners at the end of the day really just care about how much money you end up raking in. When the Spurs were bought by Peter Holt in 1996, he paid $76 million for the team. The following year, the Spurs drafted Tim Duncan and started their 19-year run as being a top-tier team. Today, the value of the San Antonio Spurs is $1.15 billion. The city of San Antonio also agreed to spend $186 million on the AT&T Center in 2002 and was credited with saving basketball in San Antonio. How does Duncan play into this? It just so happens that the city approved the tax increases (to pay for the stadium) on the same day that the Spurs raised their banner for their first NBA Championship.
8. How Duncan Viewed Competition
When you watch Duncan on the court, you can understand why he gets the reputation of being such a competitive player. That doesn’t mean he was a dirty or aggressive player, just that he wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty. When talking about his competitive nature, Duncan gave further insight on how it gets displayed.
“I’m not a yeller and a screamer, a jumper, and a pusher. I’m not gonna do all that stuff with my teammates or opponents. But I’ve been competitive from Day 1. Whether people recognize that or not, I don’t know how they can’t. I’m not gonna go out there and try to hurt somebody or win at all means. But if it’s up in the air, I’m gonna try harder than you to get it done.”
7. Why He Bonded With Manu and Tony
There is no doubt that Duncan was a tremendous individual player when he had to be, but his career never would never have become what it was if Gregg Popovich was not able to put the right pieces around him. It just so happened that two of those pieces came from unlikely places. Ginobli, Parker, and Duncan are the winningest trio in NBA history with 575 wins in the regular season, and as mentioned above, 126 in the postseason.
When talking about his relationship with these two men, Duncan gave further insight on what made them click. “We took pride in representing where we came from, took pride in being from small places, and places all around the world and being able to come together and make ourselves into a team, into a group of guys with one goal and get that done.”
6. How Many Games He Won
Tim Duncan’s 19-year career is going to go down as one of the greatest careers of any professional athlete. Since being drafted, the Spurs had a regular season of 1,072-438. This worked out to a winning percentage of .710 which is the best 19-year stretch in NBA history and made the Spurs the most successful sports franchise in the last two decades. The New England Patriots were the 2nd most successful, with a winning percentage of .704.
Over his entire career, Duncan won 1,158 games and his 1,001 wins under Gregg Popovich is the highest for any player-coach duo in NBA History. Duncan’s 157 playoff wins are also the 2nd most in playoff history and the iconic trio of Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, and Tony Parker put together 126 postseason wins. Combined with 3 NBA Finals MVP awards, and 2 League MVP awards and you can understand just how much of a force on the court he was.
5. What Gregg Popovich Thought
When you get coached by the same man for as long as Popovich coached Duncan, you can imagine that the two must have developed an incredibly close and personal relationship. This was highlighted during Gregg Popovich’s meeting with the media after Duncan’s retirement in which he stated that he would rather have dinner with Tim Duncan than any other figure in the history of the world.
When talking about how much Duncan meant to him and the league, Popovich stated “We’ve been saying it for 19 years and he really only cared about doing the best job he could basketball-wise and being who he was for his teammates and being somebody who loved his family. That’s really who he is.He’s irreplaceable, He’s been so important to so many people it’s just mind-boggling. To think that he’s going to be gone makes it really difficult to imagine walking into practice, going to a game, getting on the bus, taking him a piece of carrot cake, whatever it might be.”
Given the awful record the Spurs put together the year prior to drafting Duncan, you can understand that Popovich realizes that if Duncan had never come around, his coaching career would have been vastly different.
4. His Tattoos
In 2015, The San Antonio Spurs sat down with some of their players and asked them to talk a little bit more about some of the tattoos that they have. Duncan at the time had roughly seven or eight tattoos and opened up about the story behind his first ever tattoo, which was of the legendary magician Merlin.
Duncan wasn’t planning on getting a tattoo but was going with some teammates at Wake Forest, so figured why not get some ink himself.
“I just kind of went with one of the wall pictures and picked something I liked, it just kind of caught my eye when I was there,” he said. “It wasn’t creative at first, but as you grow into it, you kind of figure out what you want and how you want to do it.”
Duncan admitted that he also had his children’s names designed as anagrams on his wrist, as well as a jester head tattooed on his body. Duncan has also admitted that in the future he plans to get more tattoos. “I’ll see something along the way, start putting some ideas together and kind of customize it around that.”
3. His Charity Work
Tim Duncan has done a tremendous job of using his platform as an NBA Player to try and make a significant difference in the world. Duncan established “The Tim Duncan Foundation” with the hopes to help serve the areas of health awareness, and education as well as help encourage youth sports in San Antonio, Winston-Sale, and the United States Virgin Islands.
The foundation has also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for breast and prostate cancer research. There have been several “Tim Duncan Days” and was given the Virgin Islands Medal Of Honor, which was the highest award given out by the Virgin Islands territorial government.
When talking about Duncan, President of St. Croix, Vargrave Richards said “He is a quiet giant. His laid-back attitude is the embodiment of the people of St. Croix, doing things without fanfare and hoopla.”
2. He Almost Signed With Orlando
When it comes to sports figures that have been intertwined with the city that they play for, Duncan needs to be one of the biggest examples who comes to mind. For 19 years he was the Spurs, but in 2000, things almost went very differently. Duncan was a free agent and was being heavily pursued by the Orlando Magic who had reportedly offered Duncan $122 million over 7 years.
If Duncan had joined the Magic, he would have been playing alongside top-tier players Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady. Thankfully, Duncan stayed in San Antonio, but that doesn’t mean Popovich wasn’t sweating.
“It was hell. You get close to a player and you don’t want to see him leave. I never let myself believe he was going to stay. I was just getting myself prepared, for sanity reasons. It’s no fun…It also seems like it takes forever to resolve. That’s the worst part of it. We made our pitch to him and let him be, let him make up his own mind.”
It was reported that one of the factors behind staying with San Antonio, was also because the Orlando Magic told Duncan’s wife at the time, that she was not going to be able to accompany the team on their private flights, whereas the Spurs didn’t mind.
Duncan was still only 24 years old at the time and had this move happened, you can imagine how it would have forever changed the landscape of the NBA. Especially considering the titles that Duncan went on to win in San Antonio.
1. The Money Didn’t Matter
Above you got to read about Tim Duncan seeming super cool and collected about losing $25 million to a financial advisor. Granted, when you earn over $200 million, it’s easier to be a lot more carefree about it. When he was talking about the appeal of an NBA salary, Duncan admitted that money had never really played an overwhelming factor in his decision-making.
“I took a little bit less money at certain points [so] that we could stay competitive, so that we could bring players in, so that we could put pieces around, so that we could win championships. That’s all it was about. I don’t really care who was making what. Honest truth is I didn’t really know from year to year what people were making. I think that was the best perspective to have.”
It is quotes like this that help give further perspective on why he decided to not sign with the Magic and instead stayed with the Spurs, and also helps give further insight on what type of person Duncan was.