After getting their 21st win of the season against the Phoenix Suns, the San Antonio Spurs hung up number 21 in the rafters on Sunday. After 19 years with the Spurs, there are plenty of great moments that Tim Duncan has provided fans for the past two decades, and to celebrate his jersey retirement, here are 21 of my favorite moments of the future Hall-Of-Famer.
1. Tim’s First-Ever Playoff Game
32 points and 10 rebounds in his first ever playoff game at the age of 21 during his rookie season. Some notable players with similar stat lines in their rookie year, first playoff appearance, or first playoff game include:
Alonzo Mourning: 30 points and 11 rebounds in his first playoff game as a rookie against Boston in 93’. Age: 23. Hakeem Olajuwon: Dropped a cool 32 points and 14 rebounds in his fifth playoff game of his rookie year.
Age: 22. LeBron James: Although he didn’t manage to get into the playoffs until his 3rd year, LeBron got a triple-double with 32 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists in his first playoff game against the Wizards. Age: 21.
Tim Duncan sits with some very elite company to drop those wild numbers at such a young age.
2. His First Championship
In the 1999 season, sophomore Tim Duncan went up against the Knicks in the finals. Yes, you read that right, the New York Knicks in the finals. Tim's first ring will likely have some sentiment, but it means more to the people around him, especially David Robinson and Gregg Popovich. Sure, Robinson was an established all-star, but up until that point in his career, he had never tasted the finals. Popovich also won 56 games in the previous season, but who knows where he would be if he didn’t get a ring that year. In a 4-1 series victory, Tim killed the Knicks in game 5 by putting up 31 points and 9 rebounds in the Garden, and as a result laid the foundation of his career, Pop’s career, and helped finish Robinson’s career on top. The Knicks haven't been the same since.
3. Career High 53 Points Against Dallas
In 2001, Tim Duncan scored 53 out of San Antonio’s 123 points in a loss to Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks. Despite a loss to the division rival, it's a classic performance to watch regardless of the outcome.
4. Tim Duncan Ends The Lakers Run In 2003
The Lakers were coming off a three-peat from 2000-2002, looking for a fourth consecutive championship. The Lakers knocked San Antonio out two years in a row from 2001-2002, and Tim Duncan had enough as he dropped 37 points and 16 rebounds in game 6 to send the Spurs to another championship and sent the Lakers home with tears in their eyes. Final score 110-82. Absolute savage.
5. The Quadruple Double
Game 6 in the 2003 Finals against the New Jersey Nets, Tim Duncan’s official stat line was 20 rebounds, 21 points, 10 assists, and 8 blocks. One of the greatest finals performances of all time, although many NBA fans including myself beg to question that stat line. The official records say it isn’t a quadruple-double, but in the great words of Rasheed Wallace, “ball don’t lie!”
Around 5:38 and 5:58 are the two blocks that did not count towards the stat sheet. Nobody knows why they didn’t count, but in our hearts, we all know a quadruple-double was achieved by Tim Duncan in the NBA finals.
6. Fall-away Jumper Against the Lakers
Series tied 2-2 against the Lakers, time running out, Tim Duncan hits one hell of a shot to put the Spurs up 73-72. This shot is irrelevant for most casual fans as it was erased by Derek Fisher’s infamous shot make with .04 left on the clock where San Antonio eventually loses to the Lakers that series. If that shot didn’t count, who knows what would have happened that series.
7. Ejected For Laughing
If you are unaware of this moment in NBA history, get yourself prepared. A regular season game in April of 2007 against the Dallas Mavericks, referee Joey Crawford stared down a smiling Tim Duncan and threw him out of the game. This is quite possibly the most insane ejection in NBA history, and who better to be on the receiving end than Mr. Fundamental himself.
8. 2005 Finals MVP
Tim Duncan averaged 20 points and 14 rebounds against one of the best defensive teams in the league and the combination of Tim and Manu against the Detroit Pistons was a force to be reckoned with. The Pistons were coming off a championship in 2004 after taking care of the Lakers in a 4-1 victory, and if you’re able to handle Shaq and Kobe in 5 games you’d be able to take care of anyone in the league. Tim Duncan was able to give the Pistons a run for their money against their brick wall defense and emerged victorious with a finals MVP to boot.
9. Western Conference Semifinals Game 7
After being down 3-1 in the series against the Mavericks, the Spurs turned it around to force a game 7 and Duncan put up a staggering 41 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks. Unfortunately, his efforts weren’t enough as Dallas beat the Spurs 119-111 in overtime, but the heroics displayed here by Tim are admirable. He did everything he possibly could to will his team to the next round, but a 6-0 run by the Mavs in overtime sealed the deal.
10. Clutch Three-Pointer Against The Suns
With three seconds left, Gregg Popovich draws up a play for Tim Duncan to hit a three. A career 18% three-point shooter, Tim Duncan with ice in his veins sends the game into double overtime in a playoff win against the Seven-Seconds-Or-Less Suns. One of the few times you’ll see Tim with pure emotion on the court.
11. Playing With His Kids During Halftime in the NBA Finals
Gregg Popovich instills the philosophy that there are things greater than basketball to all of his players.
“If I just did basketball, I’d be bored to death. How much satisfaction can you get out of doing jump shots and teaching someone to deny in the passing lanes?”
Tim Duncan displays such a mindset. During halftime against the Heat in 2013, Tim takes the time to sit in the hallway with his two kids. It doesn’t matter if it’s one of the biggest games in one of the best finals series in recent history, there is always a greater cause to attend to.
12. Game 6 2013 Finals
During this series, Duncan averaged 19 points and 12 boards but took it into overdrive in game 6 as he was looking to seal the deal. 30 points and 17 boards, on 62% field goal shooting. Duncan absolutely dismantled Bosh, and if it weren’t for Ray Allen, this would have gone down as one of the greatest finals performances of all time.
13. Tim Sends it to Triple Overtime
Such a similar shot to the one he pulled off against the Lakers, but just as entertaining. Tim sends it to triple overtime during the regular season in a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. The Spurs went on to play another triple overtime game against the Blazers two days later.
14. HEB Commercials
If you haven’t heard of the HEB commercials with the Spurs, then you’ve been missing out. I could have made a list of 21 Tim Duncan moments from HEB commercials alone, but here are some Tim Duncan highlights from those ads. If you want to watch the ads, check them out over here and down below.
15. Tim Duncan Breaks Amir Johnson’s Ankles
No words, just pure fundamental handles at age 37. Amir took it pretty well too when Timmy announced his retirement.
16. Tim Duncan Outplays DeMarcus Cousins
The video starts off with Tim Duncan being pushed to the ground by DeMarcus Cousins. As the game progresses, Cousins begins to become more aggressive, dropping shoulders into Duncan, and Duncan simply cannot believe the murder that is going on the court. As time goes on, Duncan progressively displays his dominance over Cousins letting his skills talk rather than his emotions. A testament to who Duncan was on the court.
17. Fadeaway Against The Thunder In Game 6 Overtime
A mismatch against Reggie Jackson turns into a baseline fadeaway that bounces in to send Tim Duncan to his 5th ring. This was no easy shot as Jackson has a 7-foot wingspan, and to top it off, Russell Westbrook gambles on the steal and still manages to come in for the double team. Tim doesn’t care, and shows a pep in his step as he turns away from the Thunder.
18. “We’ll Do It This Time”
This is one of my favorite moments that defines who Duncan is a player. Calm, professional, determined. In a post-game interview with David Aldridge, you can hear the assurance and drive in Duncan’s voice to perform and ultimately get a fifth ring for the city of San Antonio.
19. His Last Championship
You could combine his Thunder post-game interview with this, but the emotional context differs enough for me to define it as two separate moments. The sweetest championship according to the man himself and most Spurs fans alike. After a crushing 7 game series against the Miami Big 3 in 2013, the Spurs played quite possibly the most well-executed series you’ve ever seen. Shooting 53% overall as a team that series, and 46% from three, the Spurs played "The Beautiful Game" to reclaim the throne as NBA champions.
20. Game 7 Against The Clippers
I believe that this was the true finale for the Duncan saga. Not last year’s playoff exit against the Thunder, but the year prior against the Clippers. In one of the greatest playoff series in history, at the age of 38, Duncan posted up a tremendous 27 points and 11 rebounds on 68% FG shooting in game 7. The only other two players in the NBA at that age or greater who put up a similar stat line in the playoffs are Kareem and Karl Malone. Duncan also had a 28 point and 11 rebound game in game 2 of that Clippers series. Along with the numbers, the emotion displayed is just as strong between Chris Paul and Duncan. CP3 hits the game winner over his childhood hero, and CP3 shares a heartfelt moment with Duncan. Legendary night for both ends of the floor.
21. The Retirement Letter
Tim walks off congratulating the Thunder after a 113-99 loss to send the Spurs home. He walks off gracefully into the tunnel, and as a Spurs fan watching this game, you just expect Timmy to come back next season. Sure he didn’t play the greatest that series, but defeat never got in the way of Duncan as seen during the Miami Heat finals era.
Later that summer, Tim announces retirement, and everyone is shocked. Leaving nothing more than a letter and a legacy, Tim Duncan walks away from the game of basketball, closing another chapter of an era we’ve all grown to love.