Happy Birthday Tim Duncan: Remembering the Big Fundamental's Top 15 Moments
San Antonio Spurs legend Tim Duncan is celebrating his 38th birthday today, April 25. He still has plenty left in the tank at an advanced age, but retirement is sure to be on the horizon in the next couple of seasons.
So what better time is there to look back on TD’s phenomenal career than right now? His Spurs are in the postseason for an unprecedented 17th consecutive year. They’re eying a fifth title over that span, largely due to his exploits under three-time Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich.
“The Big Fundamental” is a four-time champion, three-time NBA Finals MVP, two-time MVP, eight-time All-Defensive First Team recipient, 10-time All-NBA First Team member, Rookie of the Year award winner and 14-time All-Star.
To avoid arguments about something as arbitrary as set positions, let’s just agree that Duncan is among the best combo bigs in the history of the NBA. Whether you consider him a power forward or a center, he’s an all-time great regardless.
15. Ejected for Laughing
Duncan is a rather serious character. It’s rare to see him display a wide range of emotions, as his on-court demeanor reflects his standing as proven champion and respected leader.
So to break the ice, let’s get the list of his top 15 moments started with some of the more humorous moments of his storied career.
TD didn’t hide his emotions while on the bench during a game against the Dallas Mavericks in 2007. Veteran referee Joey Crawford did not take kindly to Duncan mocking him (i.e. laughing on the bench), and lashed out by assessing two technical fouls on the big man within less than two minutes.
The league suspended Crawford indefinitely for his actions, while Duncan got tabbed with a $25,000 fine, per ESPN. That’s an expensive chuckle.
You can watch the full video (in terrible quality) here.
14. Realizing He Has Arms
The android is becoming self-aware! Abort!
It’s not quite clear what Duncan was doing in this hilarious bit of video, but his longevity and dominance in the Association would certainly be easier to explain if he was, in fact, made of robot parts.
13. H-E-B Commercial 'The List'
San Antonio’s H-E-B commercials are a YouTube rabbit hole. Once you start watching them, you can’t stop.
“The List” is one of everyone’s favorites.
While Tony Parker scoffs at letting teammates Manu Ginobili and Duncan into his exclusive party, he knows better than to prevent Coach Pop from getting past the velvet ropes.
12. H-E-B Commercial 'One for Each'
"Why? 'Cause I'm corny?"
Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Matt Bonner, Ginobili and Timmy all nail their parts in yet another H-E-B commercial.
It's always fun to see NBA players outside of their element, especially when they can make fans laugh.
11. Getting Pranked
The Big Three of Parker, Ginobili and Duncan have developed quite a bit of team chemistry over the years.
Even though Duncan is an elder statesman on the roster, Ginobili wasn't afraid to have some fun with him on the bench in a blowout win.
10. Being Selected No. 1 Overall in 1997
Now that everyone has caught a glimpse of the lighter side of Duncan—and seen the glory of H-E-B's commercials featuring Spurs players—it's time to move on to more serious moments as we enter the top 10.
This unforgettable scene occurred nearly two decades ago when Duncan was selected No. 1 overall by the Spurs. San Antonio lucked out big time by winning the lottery and the Wake Forest standout—who is still playing at an elite level 17 years later.
9. TD Goes for 20/20 Against Atlanta Hawks (2013)
Need proof that Duncan can still dominate at 37 years old? Well, here you go.
He finished 10-of-15 shooting from the floor, grabbed six of his boards on the offensive glass and added two blocked shots.
8. Career-High 53 Points
On Dec. 26, 2001—back when the Spurs played at the Alamodome, one of the best stadium names ever, rather than the AT&T Center—Duncan went off on the Dallas Mavericks for a career-high 53 points.
In the 126-123 overtime loss, TD was 19 of 28 from the floor and cashed all 15 of his free-throw attempts.
Sidenote: Can we please bring back the pink and teal color scheme to San Antonio's home court? Actually, you're right, bad idea.
7. Game-Tying 3-Pointer Against Phoenix Suns (2008)
Duncan scored 40 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and added five assists in the 117-115 double-overtime victory, but the true heroics occurred in the first overtime when TD drained an improbable three-pointer to tie the game and send it to a second OT.
As a Suns fan, I can tell you all with confidence that this is one of my most painful sports memories.
6. Timmy's 2003 NBA Finals Performance
Duncan flat-out dominated the 2003 NBA Finals against the New Jersey Nets.
For the series, the legendary big man averaged 24.2 points, 17 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 5.3 blocks and 1.0 steals per game.
His performance in Game 1 checked in at No. 19 on a countdown of the greatest individual NBA playoff performances compiled by B/R's Adam Fromal in 2012. He wrote the following of Duncan's outburst:
"No player has ever recorded a five-by-five, but Duncan has come the closest. He scored only eight points in the first half, but reeled off 24 more points to break the tie in the second half and finished with 32. The Big Fundamental also added 20 rebounds, seven blocks, six assists and three steals."
Although trumping that performance would make nearly every big man in the league blush, TD actually managed to do so in Game 6 (which was No. 12 of Fromal's aforementioned article).
In the series-clinching game, he finished just two blocks shy of a quadruple double with 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and eight blocks, per Basketball-Reference.com.
5. Winning Rookie of the Year
Duncan won Rookie of the Year honors for his efforts during the 1997-98 season after getting drafted first overall by San Antonio.
He averaged 21.1 points, 11.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.5 blocks and shot 54.9 percent from the field. It doesn't get much better than that for a rookie.
4. Becoming Spurs' All-Time Leading Scorer
TD is currently the Spurs' all-time leading scorer, but it's up for debate whether or not passing David "The Admiral" Robinson on Nov. 19, 2009, was what put him in the history books.
Although the announcers in the embedded video say that Duncan moved to No. 1 all time by passing his former teammate, Basketball Reference lists George Gervin as No. 2 behind TD with 23,602 points scored for the franchise. So he wasn't technically No. 1 at that point when including Gervin's historic ABA/NBA career.
In any case, today Duncan is the unquestioned No. 1 scorer in the organization's history with 24,904 points.
Speaking of The Admiral, he posted the following birthday message via Twitter:
3. Winning First MVP
Duncan won the first of back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards for his 2001-02 campaign.
He averaged 25.5 points, 12.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.5 blocks per game while shooting 50.8 percent from the field. In other words, he was really, really good.
The 2001-02 team went on to fall, 4-1, to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Semifinals.
2. Winning First Title
Despite only being a 22-year-old NBA sophomore at the time, Duncan led the 1998-99 Spurs to their first title in franchise history.
For those who believe that Robinson was the alpha dog on that squad, here's a statistical comparison between the two:
Duncan: 21.7 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.5 blocks, 49.5 percent shooting.
Robinson: 15.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.4 blocks, 50.9 percent shooting.
Robinson was still playing at an extremely high level as a 33-year-old, but the reins of the roster had clearly been handed to TD.
He won NBA Finals MVP for posting averages of 27.4 points, 14 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.2 blocks, 53.7 percent shooting.
1. Winning Fourth Title
No matter how you slice it, winning championships eight years apart with the same franchise is no small feat.
Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, Pop and the rest of the Spurs capped a 58-24 regular-season record with a convincing four-game sweep of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2007 NBA Finals.
The three-time Finals MVP (Duncan) had to pass the torch to a new Finals MVP (Parker), but winning it all for a fourth time was clearly the only goal on his mind.
Happy birthday to Mr. Timothy Theodore Duncan. Here's hoping the living legend can continue to play at a high level for at least a few more seasons.