SI: Duncan’s Boredom Limits Greatness?

by March 29, 2010

by Chris Deaton

Substitution: a bit of bluntness for propriety.Spurs Nets Basketball

It’s poor etiquette to throw near-faceless cyberjabs at a fellow sportswriter, so that isn’t gonna happen.  But the opinion of Dan Shaughnessy, that Tim Duncan’s legend is hampered by, well, not enough fame or something: dude, it’s goofy.  So are these “rankings” of the best players, in a way; and those of the best bars, the best beers, the best bodies, though they’re fun fodder for fellas around the coffee pot.  Our opinions are arbitrary—they’re judgment calls.

I care for Tim Duncan.  Always have.  If he really is “the Pete Sampras of basketball,” at 20K/10K and counting, at four rings, three Finals MVPs, two League MVPs and one fundamental moniker that expresses why he’s the game’s how-to guide, then he could be, oh, somewhere around eighth in the historian’s list of greats.

Could be.  It may not be his definitive slot on the hoops hierarchy, but not only is he in the chat, he’s one among a mere few who belongs.  So don’t dismiss him so easily, please.  The moment that Tim Duncan and Bob Pettit occupy the same plane of balling goodness, Star Wars and Avatar are equal FX marvels.

But they are!

If adjusted for technological evolution, sure.  But we’ve driven around this block.  There’ve been many thousands of days since Pettit’s days, and Tim Duncan plays against harder, better, faster, stronger.  His team’s win percentage has never dipped below .600—and he’s never been anything but the best player on his team.

All of these and more are the reasons many think Duncan is the best power forward to have played professional ball, so elaboration is redundant.  And it’s hard—nay, preposterous—to say whether his greatness exceeds that of Cousy’s or West’s or any of the others’ floating in the NBA’s exosphere.

But the idea that Tim Duncan is an unremarkable superstar—someone whose brilliance has been dimmed by “a small media market” or “a lack of flair” or a nickname befitting “a guy you’d fit for a pocket protector”—is plumb silly.  His commitment to executing all facets of the game, those that appear in the box score and otherwise, amplifies his plentiful talent and sets him further apart from his contemporaries and predecessors.

The defense slumbers.

(Joe Posnanski, whose top-ten appraisal of Duncan beckoned Shaughnessy’s response, gives his 88 cents here.)