When I first read Bill Simmons’ Book of Basketball a couple of years ago, the surprise of the book was Tim Duncan’s appearance in the Top 10 all-time players list1. It’s not that I don’t have mad respect for Tim Duncan. I was fortunate to know what every other ACC fan knew before Duncan ever stepped on an NBA court – Tim Duncan is crazy good. He’s just so quietly good it’s easy for the superlatives to escape you when his name pops up.
In his post-Finals wrap up over on Grantland, Simmons sums Duncan up perfectly:
Kareem’s A-game was better — that’s undeniable. His first 11 seasons were as great as LeBron’s first 11 seasons. Duncan was never THAT good for THAT long. But Kareem was more of a loner, a tortured genius, a once-in-a-generation talent who motivated teammates mostly by being outstanding at his job. Duncan’s most underrated “skill”? He’s one of the greatest and most unselfish teammates of all time. The Spurs realized early on that they could build a franchise around his personality, his competitiveness and his work ethic, so that’s exactly what San Antonio did. Everyone from Duncan’s generation was jealous of the players who got to play with Tim Duncan. It’s one of many reasons why he’s had the second-greatest career of all time.
The thing that makes Duncan the best player of the post-MJ generation according to Simmons is primarily his character, a trait that no stat sheet or box score can accurately portray. Duncan didn’t need this year’s championship to define his legacy, it just provided the exclamation point.
- Duncan comes in at #7.↩