SAN ANTONIO — Tim Duncan gave a rare TV interview on Saturday when, in an announcement that surprised nobody, he was named to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
He praised his teammates and coaches, humbly said how blessed he was, and said that he never felt underappreciated because the whole team was focused on winning. This short chat showed who he is and why he's here today better than any highlight reel ever could.
"I walked into a situation there where I got to learn from some of the best. I got to learn from David Robinson, from Sean Elliott, the Avery Johnsons, the Vinnie Del Negros. I had great teammates and I had the opportunity to grow while not being counted on as much as a number one pick usually is," said Duncan, who won Rookie of the Year by a near-unanimous vote in 1998.
That team-first mentality is arguably the most important piece of Duncan's legacy and the foundation for the Spurs' culture of sustained success. He also acknowledged the star-studded 2020 class he's a part of, including the late Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tamika Catchings, Rudy Tomjanovich and Kim Mulkey.
"I played the game, I enjoyed the game, I loved what I did," he said. "To be here now with the guys that I’m going to be put into the Hall of Fame with, it’s an amazing class."
Tributes to Duncan poured in from all over when the announcement was made. Wake Forest put up some highlights from his four years with the Demon Deacons, a formative experience for him.
"I started basketball late, and I didn’t play on the highest level to start, so the development at every stage was huge for me," said Duncan, who wanted to be a swimmer until Hurricane Hugo destroyed the only Olympic-sized swimming pool on St. Croix.
"Staying four years in college was huge for me. I had a great coach, a great team, a great experience there."
Duncan cemented himself as the greatest power forward of all time with a legendary NBA career. The five-time champion is one of two players to win a title in three different decades, and we could spend all day listing his accomplishments on the court.
As amazing as the numbers and accolades are, nothing compares to the simple joy of watching the Big Fundamental play the game of basketball.
Duncan is undoubtedly in the pantheon of the greatest to ever play the game of basketball, but you'd be hard pressed to find footage of him reflecting on his place in history. On Saturday, with his bust in Springfield confirmed, he did just that.
"To think of the people who are in the Hall of Fame, and to be a part of that class is the special part," Duncan said. "Being a part of the history of basketball, the legends of basketball, being a part of that is the big thing for me."
Duncan probably won't spend much more time talking about his place in history, and that's probably why he has one to begin with. He's much more likely to simply look back and appreciate what an amazing ride it was.
"It was an incredible career that I enjoyed so much," Duncan said. "I took my time and I enjoyed my journey."