The terms "underrated" and "underappreciated" have become synonymous with the San Antonio Spurs in recent years. Despite being a high-caliber franchise every year, they face an annual struggle to receive the true recognition they deserve.
Like the team, the players on it have become overlooked, including even the most prominent of them. Though Tony Parker is beginning to receive credit for his spectacular abilities, the appreciation of the All-Star point guard is long overdue.
More underappreciated than Parker, however, is Tim Duncan. While he is recognized as a future Hall of Famer, he still lacks the proper credit for his brilliance as a basketball luminary.
Duncan has never been one to bask in the national spotlight, and he remains fairly distant from media coverage. Though his local H.E.B commercials have proven to be quite amusing, worldwide attention has been uncommon for the legend.
That has helped differentiate him from others who have used the global platform to boost their recognition and popularity.
Despite his quiet off-the-court life, Duncan has constructed a tremendous résumé over the span of his 16-year NBA career: Two-time MVP, four-time NBA champion, 14-time All-Star, nine-time All-NBA first team, eight-time All-Defensive first team. The list is long.
With popularity playing such a large role in status around the league, his feats have been overshadowed by those of large-market players such as Los Angeles Lakers legends Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.
As the greatest power forward to ever step foot on a basketball hardwood, Duncan has demonstrated a wide variety of basketball skills, though his intangibles separate him from other stars. His intelligence is among the league's best, as is his desire to win.
As the proud owner of four rings, Duncan is a proven winner, having been the Most Valuable Player in three of the four championships. He is one of only four players to win the award more than twice.
Few can argue with his achievements, and his skill is indisputably among the best of all time. Yet the new generation of NBA fans often fail to place him in a category with other legends of the hardwood, overlooking him for modern stars and other big names around the league.
In terms of being the leading man when it matters most, Duncan has averaged 22.3 points, 12.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.5 blocks in 190 playoff games. Those trump his regular-season accomplishments across the board: 20.1 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.2 blocks.
In an old column about Duncan's lack of acknowledgement, Bill Simmons described a perfect example of the superstar's lack of recognition, citing a conversation with his father as proof:
"Would you read a column about how underrated Tim Duncan is?" I asked.
Dad made a face. He played with his hair. He seemed confused. "A whole column on Tim Duncan?"
"You wouldn't read it?" I continued.
"I don't think so. I'd see the headline, skim the first two paragraphs and flip to the next article."
"Seriously? He's the best player of the past 10 years!"
"Nahhhhhhh," Dad maintained. "Nobody wants to read about Tim Duncan. He's not that interesting."
To many, he is considered uninteresting. Sure, Duncan isn't the greatest dunker, scorer, passer or defender in NBA history.
But what he has done both for his personal career as well as the entire San Antonio Spurs organization is proof of his place in history.
The NBA will likely never again see a player who is so talented and yet so down to earth. With his illustrious career drawing to an inevitable close, it's time for the world to truly recognize him for the legend that he is.
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