tim duncan

Originally published in SLAM 160

Tim Duncan made his decision early on. The vacant expression, wide-eyed stares, sleep-inducing answers, the history full of swimming and role-playing games, even the Merlin tattoo. All part of a fiction, a charade, an epic trolling of everyone who ever watched him play. He fooled us all.

Only a genius could’ve pulled this off, and Duncan was—is—so much more than that. When you invent an entire persona, there are no days off. You need to support the back story, tales told so often they turn into truths, ones that will stand up to the digging of the most dogged reporters. You build the foundation so deep, even you don’t remember where the real you begins.

But even a genius forgets. And while his earthbound, fundamental, emotionless ways will one day put him in the Hall of Fame (perhaps with another ring), some days he just wants to fly. And he may even flash a little smile.

Russ Bengtson