I missed Bruce Bowen’s jersey retirement in March of 2012, regretted not going, and immediately decided that there was absolutely no way that I wouldn’t be at the AT&T Center when the time came to send Tim Duncan’s jersey into the rafters to join the Spurs royalty of Johnny Moore, James Silas, George Gervin, Sean Elliott, Avery Johnson, David Robinson and Bruce.
In some ways I had been looking forward to this event for a very long time and at the same time hoped it wouldn’t come until sometime after 2020, daydreaming of a 45-year old Duncan coming off the bench, using his wiles to give the Spurs an effective 10 to 15 minutes against guys half his age. Pretty unrealistic, though not an impossible notion with how incredibly effective Big Fun was at 40, but it sure was fun to imagine.
If you’ve been reading Pounding the Rock for the past few years you know that Tim Duncan is my all-time favorite athlete by a wide margin, and after watching almost every game over the previous 19 seasons, the ceremony exceeded my expectations in every way.
The Spurs have made the speeches from Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Gregg Popovich and Timmy himself available so if you haven’t seen or heard them, or just want to watch them again, here’s your chance. But let’s start with Tim’s video message.
The ceremony was bittersweet, with fans, teammates, coaches and the NBA world as a whole getting a chance for real closure when he retired. After all, in true Timmy fashion he wasn’t even at his own retirement press conference, sending Pop out to face the press instead.
First up was Tony Parker, who was pretty funny before ending with why Tim is so special off the court.
"You've always been the perfect example to follow...except with the clothing."— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 19, 2016
From the laughs to the thanks, watch Tony's entire speech: pic.twitter.com/SY25wIyjsv
Next up was Manu Ginobili, who’s been the most honest and most willing speaker to the press over his career, and he kicked up a little dust in the arena with a story about how Timmy lifted his spirits after a tough playoff loss that Manu blamed himself for.
Pop’s shown the softer side of his nature to the public more over the past several years but no subject brings out the heart under his gruff exterior like talking about Duncan. His speech was incredible.
All 10 minutes of Pop's speech to Timmy are a must-watch. pic.twitter.com/o3wGZRHXoG— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 19, 2016
Perhaps most surprising is that the usually publicly-taciturn Duncan talked for almost four minutes, giving a heartfelt thanks to the fans and city as well as his teammates and coaches. Perhaps most endearing was the thanks he gave to his partner in excellence for almost two decades, becoming the winningest coach-player duo in NBA history.
"Thank you, San Antonio, thank you."— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 19, 2016
Tim's retirement speech, in it's entirety: pic.twitter.com/aThRYY1ynB
What is there left to say about Tim? It’s all out there. His on-court accomplishments — the rings and awards, the unparalleled consistency and sheer longevity - solidified him as the greatest player of his generation for everyone but the most stubborn of Kobe fans.
Retiring his number doesn’t begin to do justice to just how much he meant, and still means, to the franchise, the fans and the city. The Spurs have become as important to San Antonio as its missions and the Alamo. And Tim Duncan was the single biggest factor in that shift in cultural identity.
He was the perfect hero for the large city with a humble, small-town feel.
What I’ll take from 19 seasons of watching Tim play, the countless hours I’ve spent with friends talking about the Spurs and Tim, and gleaning a picture of who the intensely private Duncan really is from the anecdotes that came from the people who know him is this:
Strive to be the best you can be in whatever discipline you are in.
Get over yourself but be true to yourself.
Be confident yet humble.
Be as helpful, kind, empathetic and playful as you can be with your family, friends and coworkers and you’ll impact people in such a positive way that you’ll be rewarded with a full life.
Thank you, TD.