Tim Duncan’s career in San Antonio, just like his predecessor David Robinson, created the underlying driving force that kept the Spurs in the playoffs year after year after year. Over time, the Spurs and Duncan were synonymous. Duncan represented the Spurs identity, morality, and legacy as if they birthed him in a bubble. The Spurs weren’t flashy or showy. A halting defense and polished post moves, no excuses, winning with grace and losing with grace, it defined the organization and Duncan. They were made for one another.
Over his illustrious career, Tim Duncan accumulated five championships, three Finals MVPs, and two regular-season MVPs, not to mention he’s a 15-time All-Star and a 15-time member of the All-Defensive team.
Duncan’s top games consist of the nights he showcased his immense value and ability. These performances hardly sprung from luck; they were caused by a combination of skill and willpower. Here are some of his career highlights.
Spurs vs. Knicks – 1999 NBA Finals Game 5, June 25, 1999
In only his second NBA season, Tim Duncan led the Spurs to their first championship. It only took five games for him to seal the victory. He played 46 minutes the final night, showing off his superior stamina. In addition to scoring 31 points, Duncan’s defense was obstructing and he grabbed 9 rebounds. The Knicks tried to push him into taking difficult shots, but couldn’t keep him from making his way to the rim. He won his first Finals MVP averaging 27.4 points, 14 rebounds, and 2.4 assists.
Score: 78-77 Spurs
Spurs vs. Mavericks – December 25, 2001
Duncan scored a career-high 53 points; he made all 15 free throws. As a player who wasn’t known for prolific scoring, Duncan demonstrated his offensive power while still maintaining his defensive integrity; he grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked three shots. The Mavericks eventually won in overtime, but the news headline was Tim Duncan the scorer, showcasing his array of shots and dunks.
Score: 126-123 Mavericks
Spurs vs. Nets – 2003 NBA Finals Game 1, June 4, 2003
From the beginning of this series to the end, Tim Duncan dominated. He protected the rim with several solid blocks and was a monster on the boards. Duncan had an impressive stat line – 32 points, 20 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 7 blocks.
Score: 101-89 Spurs
Spurs vs. Nets – 2003 NBA Finals Game 6, June 15th, 2003
If the Nets thought they had already faced the worst in Tim Duncan, they were unprepared for his championship winning performance. Duncan left the game with almost a quadruple-double – 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, and 8 blocks. He broke the record for most blocks in the Finals with 32 blocks and still holds the record to this day. San Antonio easily seized the championship that night on their home court.
Tim Duncan won his second title and second Finals MVP, averaging 24.2 points, 17 rebounds, and 5.3 assists.
Score: 88-77 Spurs
Spurs vs. Suns – 2008 Playoffs Round One, Game 1, April 19, 2008
Duncan outshone opponent Amar’e Stoudemire in this first game of a five-game series with 40 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists. Almost a decade after his first Finals MVP, he showed that he was still one of the best players in the NBA. He made a wide-open three-pointer to tie the game at the end of overtime, forcing a double overtime. The Spurs then stole the game from the Suns on their home court.
Score: 117-115 Spurs
Spurs vs. Thunder – 2014 Western Conference Finals Game 1, May 19, 2014
Duncan made 7 of the first 8 shots he took and ended the game with 27 points (21 of which were made in the first half). He kept the Thunder in check on defense, allowing the Spurs to double their score in the paint. With a 57.9 field goal percentage that night, Duncan helped his team pull away from their opponent and win by double digits. This series eventually led to the Spurs’ 2014 championship title.
Score: 122-105 Spurs
For almost two decades, Tim Duncan was the centerpiece of the Spurs reign. Five rings in 19 years is an iconic achievement. He was undefeated in the NBA Finals, 4-0, until losing to Miami in a close Game 7. The following year, he won his 5th ring. His patience and poise and fundamental skill level are what he takes with him to the Hall of Fame; he made difficult moves look simple, and he made simple plays effective.
Teddy Roosevelt famously said, “speak softly but carry a big stick.” That was Tim Duncan. His game was quiet but thunderous, his talent prodigious, and his accomplishments elite.