After 19 brilliant professional seasons, San Antonio Spurs big man Tim Duncan, who played collegiately at Wake Forest, hung up his sneakers, announcing his retirement Monday morning in a way that was perfectly suited for him.The news broke just as quietly as Tim Duncan would have said it himself. After 19 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs and five NBA championships, the Big Fundamental announced he was retiring. No goodbye tour. No fanfare. No yearlong tour culminated with a 1966 Pontiac with Snoop Dogg driving floated onto the court at halftime.No, this was quintessential Timmy D: a quiet fade to black.Few NBA player exemplified the “speak softly, and carry a big stick” ideology like Duncan, a one-of-a-kind superstar whose career accomplishments were only outshone by the way he carried himself on and off the court.He was focused, driven and team-oriented. And my word, his achievements were mind-bending.Duncan was a 15-time All-Star and played in 1,392 career games (No. 7 on the all-time list). He scored 26,496 points (No. 14), recorded 15,091 rebounds (No. 6) and blocked 3,020 shots (No. 5).His 251 playoff games are second only to Derek Fisher. Kobe Bryant is the only player to spend more with one team (20 seasons). Over the course of his run in San Antonio, the Spurs never missed the playoffs and won 50 or more games in all but one season: the lockout shortened season of 1998-99, when they went on to win the first championship in franchise history.During his 19 professional seasons, Duncan was named to the All-NBA team 15 times, including 10 first-team selections.His game was ageless, too. Duncan was All-NBA third team as recently as one year ago, when he was also named all-defensive team for the 15th time in his career. His player efficiency rating (PER) of 24.2 ranks No. 13 on the all-time list.He was still incredibly useful during his final season, too. This last hurrah was the exact opposite of a charity case the future Hall of Famer was the backbone of a legitimate championship contender. Duncan played only 1,536 minutes (a career low) in just 61 games this season. He averaged single digit points for just the first time in his career, but he was still one of the most important players in the league in 2016, nearly 20 years after the Spurs drafted him No. 1 overall out of Wake Forest.San Antonio was overshadowed by the 73-win Golden State Warriors during the regular season, but the Spurs still managed to win 67 games behind one of the best defenses the NBA has seen in the last 15 years.The anchor of that defense? One Tim Duncan. The Spurs allowed a team-best .938 points per possession with Duncan on the floor. Opponents shot just 47 percent on field goals defended at the rim by Duncan a top-10 metric amongst players who played at least 25 minutes per game and defended at least five field goals per game.His career ended in Oklahoma City, on the court of a franchise that wouldn’t even exist until 12 years after he entered the league. The Spurs were overrun by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and the rest of the the Thunder, but that night, Duncan emptied the bucket as the Spurs desperately tried to claw their way back into the game: 19 points, 7-14 shooting and a net rating of +13.5.It’s fitting in a circular way the same man who took the league by storm, winning rookie of the year and being named first team All-NBA in 1998, was his team’s best player on the court in his final contest 19 seasons later.Father Time remains undefeated, but Tim Duncan, far more the competitor than his quiet demeanor would belie, gave him a run for his money. Duncan may have fallen to the eternal sands, but the only reason he got there was with a twisted assist from Mother Nature.Duncan’s basketball career doesn’t happen, but if not for a natural disaster. In 1989, when Duncan was 13 years old, Hurricane Hugo destroyed his hometown St. Croix swimming pool in 1989. Without that, maybe none of this happens.We won’t ever know, and luckily we don’t have to. Duncan’s aspirations of swimming in the Olympics were shelved when a fear of sharks actualized after he was forced to swim in the ocean. Basketball, instead, became his primary sport, and for the next three decades, that was all he wanted to do: shoot hoops.We will miss you, Big Fella. Enjoy retirement. You’ve earned it.
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