Spurs' Tim Duncan Passes Kobe Bryant for 4th-Most Games Played with 1 Team

Bleacher Report MilestonesB/R StaffMarch 29, 2014

DENVER, CO - MARCH 28: Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs during a game against the Denver Nuggets on March 28, 2014 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
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San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan played in his 1,246th game Friday, passing Kobe Bryant for fourth place on the NBA's all-time list for most games played with one team, per NBA.com/stats.

Much like Bryant, the San Antonio big man has only known one team, although in Duncan's case it's the franchise that drafted him, while the Black Mamba joined the Lakers in a 1996 draft-day trade with the Charlotte Hornets.

Bryant went 13th overall and ended up as the best player from one of the best draft classes in league history, while Duncan went first overall the next year, after the typically competitive Spurs famously suffered through a slew of injuries during the 1996-97 campaign.

Despite spotting the Lakers legend a year, the 37-year-old Duncan has now played in one more regular-season games than the 35-year-old Bryant, who was limited to just six appearances this season because of leg and knee injuries. 

With both franchise mainstays likely to retire in the uniforms they've always worn, it seems inevitable that the duo will climb higher on the NBA's list for most games played with one team.

Duncan needs just 25 more appearances to pass former Boston Celtics great John Havlicek (1,270 games) for third place, and 144 more games would vault the 6'11" big man past former Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller (1,389 games) for second place. Sitting a bit further up the ladder is former Utah Jazz point guard John Stockton in first place at 1,504 games, 258 ahead of Duncan.

Havlicek will almost certainly fall behind both Bryant and Duncan, but it's unclear whether Miller and Stockton will meet the same fate.

Duncan has one year remaining on his contract after this season, and he's playing well enough to conceivably stick around for three or four more years, which would put him well ahead of Miller and into the conversation to overtake Stockton. Duncan's health has held up well, but he doesn't have much left to accomplish, as a four-time champion and two-time league MVP.

Meanwhile, Bryant will start a two-year contract next season, and while he played at an elite level as recently as last year, Mamba's last 12 months have been marred by injuries, creating some concern in regard to his longevity. He's just as accomplished as Duncan, yet Bryant seems much less likely to retire before the gas tank is on empty, as he's made it quite clear that he plans on playing at a high level for a few more seasons.

Bryant's injury woes aside, both superstars have aged rather gracefully, and one of the two will likely retire as the NBA's all-time leader in games played for one team. Passing Stockton will require four more seasons, but history tells us that either Duncan or Bryantif not both—will likely stick around as a role player once the days of superstardom fade.