Respect was given to Michael Jordan. When he returned from his second retirement with the Washington Wizards he was chosen as an All-Star in both seasons, even though his teams were not competitive.
Respect was given to Magic Johnson. After revealing that he'd contracted HIV and retiring prior to the 1991-1992 season he was chosen to play in the 1992 All-Star Game, where he was named the game's MVP.
Respect was given to Kobe Bryant. He's played in just six games this season but was chosen as a starter for the West via fan voting. To his credit, Kobe said he doesn't deserve it. But he was given the respect nonetheless.
Unfortunately, that same respect has not been given to Tim Duncan. The three NBA greats mentioned above were chosen to play in the game more out of respect and their entire career's body of work than how they actually performed on the court during the seasons in which they were chosen. In Magic's and Kobe's case there isn't even enough time on the court to determine their worth. But respect was given. We can argue about fan voting and popularity contests until the end of time, but it all boils down to the same thing. I can't imagine a world in which those three wouldn't be selected as All-Stars. But sadly we live in a world where Tim Duncan is passed over and the basketball world can barely muster a shrug.
Take your respect.
As a long-suffering fan of the Texas Tech Red Raiders, I'm keenly aware of the different ways respect is afforded. For some, it's tossed out like candy from a 4th of July parade float. The quickest and strongest scoop up handfuls of bubble gum and jolly ranchers before disappearing into the shadows to count their loot. For others, respect has to be taken. People that have to scratch and claw and fight for every sliver of respect they get -- those are my favorite people. Whether in the world of sports or in real life, they take it.
Wes Welker was an undrafted free agent that bounced around the NFL for a few years before becoming one of the most reliable possession receivers in the NFL over the past six seasons. He led the NFL in receptions in 2007, 2009 and 2011 and is now a favorite target of Peyton Manning in Denver. Wes took his respect.
Fred Smith wrote a paper for an economics class while attending Yale about an overnight delivery system. He received a "C" because the professor thought the idea was implausible. Smith is the founder of Fed Ex. Fred Smith took his respect.
The Texas Tech football team had a slogan during the 2013 season-- #TYFR. In this age of hash tags and acronyms it was a perfect reminder for the team of what exactly they had to do. The sign hung above the door in the locker room before every game. "TYR" means "Take Your Respect." I'll leave it to your creative minds to determine what the "F" stands for.
As Spurs fans we can only hope that Tim and the rest of the team adopt this philosophy for the rest of the year and into the early summer. Sure, there are arguments on both sides. Perhaps Duncan wasn't having the kind of spectacular year that warrants a spot on the All-Star team. And maybe it's for the best anyway. With the MASH unit that we call the Spurs these days a little rest for the team's best player is welcome. But at some point the man deserves the respect rightfully given to former (and a few current) greats. He deserves his day at the parade, piling up the candy.
Is that a chip?
"I'm sure Tim will be happy to have the time off to be with his kids," said R. C. Buford, the Spurs' general manager, referring to All-Star weekend, Feb. 14-16, in New Orleans.
After a pause, he added: "I'm also sure his feelings are hurt a bit. He's just never been one to show them."
I'm not facile enough to equate the Spurs organization and their four NBA titles with my school and its football team, but Red Raiders know how to live life with a chip on their shoulder. We nurture that chip. We take care of that chip. Often, after a few beers, we'll obnoxiously show you our chip, especially if you find yourself inside Jones Stadium on a Saturday night in the fall. At times, we overplay the chip, but it's always there.
We use that continuous feeling of being snubbed as motivation. We live with it everyday. But that's ok. It's our chip and we're proud to have it. I hope Tim and his teammates have one now.
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We all know the end is near for Tim Duncan. He might have a few years left or he could plausibly call it a day after this season. The thought makes me shudder, but it could happen. And if it does, it would be shameful that the coaches and the NBA didn't somehow find a way to recognize him as one of the best 24 players in the league this season.
In the meantime, take your respect Tim. Put that chip on your shoulder and proudly display it every night. We've seen glimpses of an angrier Duncan in recent games. That's not a bad thing. Grab a pile of respect when your legs are tired and the game is on the line and the world is watching.
Take their respect, Tim. And know that there are those of us who have already given it.