One of the great surprises from the 2012-13 NBA regular season has been the re-emergence of San Antonio Spurs big man Tim Duncan. The "Big Fundamental" torched the opposition and had the best all-around season of any big man in the NBA—regardless of age.
Over the past 16 seasons, Duncan has become one of the most decorated players in NBA history. From individual accolades to championship rings, there isn't much that this man has yet to accomplish.
I believe I speak for the entire NBA community when I say that we want to see it continue.
Fortunately, the 37-year-old is playing elite basketball and is showing no signs of slowing down after playing 30.1 minutes per game during the regular season. While that may be a decline from what we're used to seeing, it's actually more than he played the last two seasons.
If it has to end, however, one thing must be known: Tim Duncan is the greatest power forward in the history of professional basketball.
How It Started
On June 25, 1997, the San Antonio Spurs selected power forward Tim Duncan out of Wake Forest University with the first overall selection in the draft. While we herald today's players for having great rookie seasons, Duncan was a part of an era in which first-year players made this generation's best look weak.
Timmy finished with 21.1 points, 11.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.5 blocks per game on 54.9 percent shooting from the floor.
By comparison, Duncan would have led all rookies in scoring, rebounding and blocks per game in 2012-13. He would've finished 2.1 points ahead of Damian Lillard this season (3.7 rebounds and .75 blocks ahead of Anthony Davis).
How's that for a rookie season?
On top of winning the Rookie of the Year award, Duncan led one of the greatest turnarounds in NBA history. The Spurs went from 20-62 in 1997 to 56-26 in 1998.
That's a difference of 36 wins. The major difference from the year prior?
David Robinson was healthy, and Duncan had arrived. The Twin Towers were born.
In Duncan's second year in the league, he gave Gregg Popovich a first full season as Spurs head coach a season to remember. Between he and the Admiral, the Spurs were an unstoppable force inside, taking down everyone in their way.
Once they arrived at the NBA Finals, the Spurs took care of the New York Knicks in short order, winning the series 4-1.
In 1999, Duncan won his first NBA championship and was named NBA Finals MVP at the age of 22.
Decade of Dominance
During the 2000s, there were few players who dominated the NBA like Duncan. He made every All-Star Game from 2000-2011. His current mark of 14 selections ranks fifth all time.
More importantly than All-Star Game selections, however, Duncan became one of the most decorated competitors in sports history. That's not just a statement for the offensive side, but on defense as well.
Duncan won two MVP awards and made 13 All-NBA teams. He had 13 All-Defensive team appearances and a grand total of three Finals MVP awards—tied with Magic Johnson and Shaquille O'Neal for second all time.
In order to win those awards, Duncan clearly needed to win NBA championships. On top of the ring in 1999, Duncan led the Spurs to titles in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
The 2003 season was one dedicated to David Robinson, who, at 37, stated before the season began that it would be his last. Duncan helped honor his memory by leading the Spurs past the Nets in the NBA Finals in six games.
For those that are giddy over this success, don't worry—it's not done yet.
Return to Form
In 2012-13, Duncan has found the fountain of youth. Whether he's playing at an elite level defensively or pounding it inside on offense, he has been sensational in every sense of the word.
Regular-season averages of 17.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.7 blocks in just 30.1 minutes of action speaks volumes to that.
With Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook set to undergo surgery on his torn meniscus, the Spurs have suddenly become the Western Conference favorites. Defeating Kevin Durant will be no easy task, but Westbrook was sixth in the NBA in scoring and seventh in assists.
If anyone can take down the mighty Miami Heat, why wouldn't it be Duncan and the Spurs?
As the postseason rages on and the Spurs inevitably contend for a title, we find it hard to remember that Duncan is 37 years old. With the Big Fundamental averaging 19.7 points on 53.1 percent shooting against the Los Angeles Lakers' elite interior, he is as dominant as ever.