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Tim Duncan was never the NBA’s “biggest crybaby”

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And don’t let some Mavs writer convince you otherwise.

If there is one thing that will always bring San Antonio Spurs fans together, it’s when a reason is given to come to the defense of the always underappreciated Tim Duncan. Whether it’s Kobe or Shaq comparisons or the absurd idea that Anthony Davis is better, Spurs fans will never let anyone smear the name of the GOAT PUFF.

By now you’re probably wondering what has happened this time to trigger another “in defense of Timmy” article. Well, thanks to Facebook, I came across this little nugget posted by Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram entitled “Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic replaces Tim Duncan as NBA’s biggest crybaby”.

For the most part, the article is exactly what it sounds like. After Doncic picked up his 14th and 15th technical fouls of the season in a recent loss to the Sacramento Kings, meaning he faces an automatic suspension on the next one, Engel spoke out about how he needs to man up, be less whiny, accept that not every foul is going to be called despite how today’s game is called, and to just keep playing considering how important he is to this Mavs squad.

Seems fair enough — I personally have noticed how whiny Doncic is — but it’s the headline of the article plus one little passage that’s enough make Spurs fans raise an eyebrow:

Doncic has replaced Dirk Nowitzki as the face of the Dallas Mavericks, and Tim Duncan as the crybaby face of the NBA.

Duncan is one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA, and its biggest crybaby, who was sure he never committed a foul.

In fairness, this piece is labeled as “opinion”, but one has to wonder how much of it was written with a personal grudge from a bygone era. Duncan has been out of the league for five years now, and the Spurs/Mavs rivalry has been relatively dormant since 2014’s intense first round battle. For that matter, he and Doncic were never in the in the league at the same time, so what does one have to do with the other? The fact that Duncan is still lingering in Engel’s head in 2021 in such a manner says a lot more about him than it does Duncan.

Still, it’s not enough to merely be offended by him throwing in this jab out of the blue, but proof that Duncan was never the NBA’s “biggest crybaby” must be provided. I’ve personally never heard that claim from anyone who could be taken seriously. Yes, he drew some laughs and mockery from opposing fan bases with his wide-eyed reactions to calls he disagreed with, but he was not the type of player who threw hissy fits over every call or non-call. He frequently raised his hand when he knew he committed a foul, would get back on defense instead of lingering to whine even if he felt a foul was committed against him, and more often than not he had a polite “conversation” with the refs instead of getting himself in trouble.

(And we all know the one time he did get tossed, despite it being at a Mavs game, it was completely bogus and not as a result of him being a crybaby, but quite the contrary: it was for “laughing”.)

So who are the league’s biggest crybabies? Some can be seen with the eye test, with players like LeBron James, James Harden, and Chris Paul being more well known for arguing with the refs than Duncan, thinking seemingly every missed shot is a foul, but at the same time they never commit fouls themselves. But considering Engel’s entire argument is centered around Doncic’s technical foul count, then maybe we should use his own metric system to determine who the league’s biggest crybabies are.

So far, this season’s leaders are Dwight Howard with 16 (despite coming off the bench!), followed by Doncic with 15, Russell Westbrook’s 14, Draymond Green and Devin Booker each have 12, John Wall 11, and Dillon Brooks, De’Aaron Fox, and Rudy Gobert round out the double-digit crowd with 10 apiece. (In case anyone is wondering, DeMar DeRozan leads the Spurs with 7 technicals so far.)

But to truly gauge who the biggest crybabies OF ALL TIME are, we have to turn to history. Below are the top 10 all-time NBA leaders in technical fouls thanks to SportsZion. (It should be noted that technicals come in many shapes and sizes, including flagrant fouls, so not all of these are just for whining, but also misbehavior like taunting, hard fouls, and dirty play. The count also varies a little from site to site, but the order is generally the same.)

  1. Karl Malone — 332
  2. Charles Barkley — 329
  3. Rasheed Wallace — 317 (Ball Don’t Lie!)
  4. Gary Payton — 250
  5. Dennis Rodman — 212
  6. Kevin Garnett — 172
  7. Kobe Bryant — 166
  8. Shaquille O’Neal — 150
  9. Jermaine O’Neal — 146
  10. Dirk Nowitzki — 141

Ouch on that last one, Mac. We all know that Dirk was not a dirty player or one to pick fights with opponents, so the vast majority of those T’s have to be of the whining variety. By comparison, Duncan earned 83 technicals over the course of his 19-year career according to an article from USA Today (because I otherwise flat out couldn’t find the stat): well below the all time leaders.

So no, by neither the eye test or technical foul count stance that Engel has set does Tim Duncan own the title of “NBA’s Biggest Crybaby”, not now or at any other point in his career. Overall, this is nothing more than an unnecessary jab from a beat writer of a rival team that clearly still holds an outdated grudge. (Heck, even Mark Cuban appears over it at this point.)

As an added bonus, it’s worth noting that neither Engel or the Star-Telegram have promoted this piece on their Twitter accounts. Yes, it’s from the depths of the sports opinion section, but perhaps they’re just trying to avoid the wrath of two passionate fan bases for criticizing one’s best player of all time and the other’s current star/likely franchise player of the future.