There are times in life where the universe seems to align perfectly: a person's connection with the world is harmonized, and instead of feeling like you're against it, you're flowing right with it. You read a book, and it finally clicks in your head-apparently, that author really did have something smart to say. You listen to a piece of music, and a whole new meaning to the song pops to your head. In the tumult and chaos of the universe, in a tiny spec of its time, you get a sense of how all of its parts work together.
For me, one of these moments came in a car ride to school. I sat in my uncle's car, thinking about Tim Duncan's thoughts on retirement: he's taking it day by day. As I usually do, I inserted my headphones into my ear, and pressed shuffle on my iPhone. The song that came on was Laura Stevenson's "The Wheel", from her album Wheel.
This propelled my thoughts to an interview he had a few years ago, when he was posed with a similar question: he stated that he would play "until the wheels fall off". A shudder went through my body, and I knew that this was one of those moments.
I don't have an explanation as to why strange coincidences like these happen, or even if this event was a coincidence at all. But I do know that when these moments happen, one has to seize it. The rare moments in life are not meant to gradually fade into nothingness.
* * *
A wheel is a circular object meant to rotated around an axle-basically, it's a circle-thing that rolls around a fixed point-thing. They allow objects to be moved more easily, reducing the friction by rolling, instead of grinding up against the ground.
Wheels appeared in the second half of the 4th millennium B.C.E. in the civilizations at Mesopotamia, the Northern Caucasus, and Central Europe. The earliest depiction of a wheeled vehicle appeared around 3500 B.C.E., eventually spreading out across Eurasia.
With the wheel, civilizations prospered: they could transport things more easily; they made pottery with the use of the wheel; essentially, because of the wheel, society's efficiency rose up. It let society evolve.
* * *
To characterize the conditions for his retirement, Tim Duncan described wheels falling off. He didn't say, "Until I break down;" he didn't say, "I don't know;" he didn't say some uncertain time only known to him. He gave a specific time: until he and everyone else could see that the wheels had fallen off.
Wheels falling off from a car, for example, do not go unnoticed. The mere mention of this event brings to mind a huge catastrophe. But in actuality, there is not much to it. When it happens, the wheels fly off the axle, and the car, without having wheels to lessen the friction between it and the road, quickly skids to a stop.
But what do the wheels do?
They keep rolling.
When Tim Duncan eventually ends his illustrious career, it'll just be like the car. One day, he'll just stop playing. I wouldn't put it past him to just walk off the court once he decides that the wheels have fallen off, and his car has screeched its way to a stop. The vehicle that propels his body to go against human trees and athletic beasts will find its way to its eternal garage.
That doesn't mean that Tim Duncan's presence will disappear. In the fiber of every being of anyone involved with the Spurs, there lies a place that Tim Duncan has touched. That may be in a piece of advice, a funny joke, or a touching pat on the head. It may be in his never-ending brilliance on the basketball court. His effect on the franchise cannot be put to words.
Like the wheels, Tim Duncan will keep rolling. Years down the line, when unrecognizable names and undiscovered talents carry the name of the Spurs, Tim Duncan will still be there. You'll know his ubiquity in the endless tire tracks that he has left with the burning rubber of his tires.
You see, the wheels never actually stop.
Tim Duncan, with his magnificent success and talent, has made his wheels impervious to friction. He has earned it by continuously refining his craft-to the point that he defies the laws of physics. Tim Duncan is the closest thing to perfection that I have seen in my short, inexperienced life. His each action carries a purpose; while his car engine fails him, his frictionless wheels keep rolling. They'll keep moving the car even as it sputters its oils, and they'll keep themselves rolling long after they've separated from the car.
So, yes, Timmy. Let the wheels fall off when they will.