I picked up my Sports Illustrated for Kids and saw a picture of Wake Forest player Tim Duncan. There was a red arrow pointed to him with a cartoony caption that read ‘He’s good’. It was very typical of SI for Kids. The blurb said he was the likely number 1 pick in the draft coming up. When I got home from school and showed my dad, he said ‘yeah the Spurs are probably not going to get the first pick’.
That was pretty typical Spurs Fan thinking. Sure, the team is in the league and they have had great players (Ice Man, Dave) but nothing like _that _would ever happen to San Antonio.
The entire extended family was at Pear Apple County Fair when the NBA Draft Lottery was on. My uncle ran into the pavilion to check on results. He came out beaming and shouted (as he does) “They got Duncan. They got Duncan.” Now they didn’t’ _actually _get him then but it was a foregone conclusion.
Tim’s first official NBA game against the Nuggets in Denver was very Tim — He was efficient and effective but understated. He scored 15 and grabbed 10 and while Dave grabbed 21 and 13. Also Avery Johnson had 19! I’m not sure why I don’t remember Tim’s second game against the Cavaliers. It was pretty memorable in that Shawn Kemp made his Cavs debut and gave Tim and Dave 26 and 10. Whatever. Tim had 9.
Tim’s third game was against the Bulls who just had come off two seasons averaging 70.5 wins and boasted former Spur Dennis Rodman. Tim grabbed 22 rebounds — equaling Rodman — and the Spurs only lost by 4. This game, more than anything Tim did up to that point — or even the stuff he did in the weeks to come — gave kid Adam hope that the Spurs were going to be different. Everyone said the Spurs were regular season All Stars but Playoff chokers. Dave was embarrassed by Hakeem a couple of years before, and the Spurs lost the WCF despite having Home Court. Tim was a new era. He could compete with the best and be unfazed. All time great Mike Jordan? Meh. Here is 19. Future HOF Dennis Rodman? I see your 22 rebounds.
Later, when the Spurs faced the Jazz, a squad who had manhandled the Bob Hill Spurs two years previous, Tim scored 33 and 26 in Utah and the Spurs lost two games by a combined 4 points. SA lost the series in 5 because Tim hadn’t completely taken the Best Power Forward mantle from Karl Malone just yet, but that performance let him know it was coming very soon. Tim was more than the real deal. He was different.
The NBA Title the next year was more of a confirmation of Tim’s abilities. He was a rookie that played like a veteran in his first. He played efficient, smart, and ruthless basketball for the next 18 years after. Aside from a decline in minutes, a blip in FT shooting percentage, and a gradual decline in dunk highlights, he was the same guy all 19. He played the best the game had to offer with the same face he used to destroy the worst. Tim Duncan saved San Antonio Spurs basketball and he started by giving some Spurs fans hope in 1997.
Thanks Timmy! Have fun in the garage.