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Reaction rolls in after Tim Duncan announces retirement

San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan (21) talks with teammate Tony Parker (9) during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls, Thursday, March 10, 2016, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 109-101. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) ORG XMIT: OTK

By Tim Reynolds

AP Basketball Writer

Chris Quinn remembers the moment vividly. Quinn was with the San Antonio Spurs, and can still see Tim Duncan sacrificing his body and diving out of bounds in a spectacular effort to keep a ball in play.

It wasn’t in a game.

That story was from a practice.

Moments like those that no one saw, moments like the five NBA championships that the world saw and countless other memories from Duncan’s 19 seasons with the Spurs were shared by plenty around the game Monday, the reactions coming in swiftly after the 15-time All-Star announced in a simple news release that he is retiring.

“He didn’t always wear his emotions on his sleeve like other guys,” said Quinn, now a Miami Heat assistant. “So it can get lost how ultra-competitive he is. No matter what we were doing as a team, whether it was a playoff game or a drill in practice, he was trying to win and he was going to do anything in his power to help his team win.”

And Duncan won a lot. Five championships, two MVP awards, three Finals MVP awards and well over 1,000 games in Spurs colors. He’s widely considered the best power forward ever, even though the debate will surely still rage as to whether he was a forward or a center (as coach Gregg Popovich insisted he was).

Those are just details now. Power forward, center, agree to disagree.

On Duncan’s greatness, there is no debate.

“Say it ain’t so!!!” wrote Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, who went head-to-head against Duncan a staggering 90 times. “Greatest power forward ever!”

Added Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who was with San Antonio for what became Duncan’s final season: “The best PF ever! Thanks for the memories old man. A great player and teammate.”

“Greatest” was the word that so many of Duncan’s playing colleagues in the game used, the list there including the likes of Dwyane Wade, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul Millsap and Austin Rivers.

Even opposing franchises — just about all of them, it seemed — felt it was appropriate to tip their caps. The New Orleans Pelicans called Duncan “one of the NBA’s all-time greats.” The Miami Heat, the team Duncan faced in his last two NBA Finals trips in 2013 and 2014, called his career “amazing.” And the Boston Celtics, knowing that Duncan will one day be honored at the nearby Basketball Hall of Fame, said “See you in Springfield.”

“Congrats on your incredible career, Tim Duncan,” the Orlando Magic posted on their Twitter account. “We thank you for all that you’ve done for the game.”

The tributes are certain to keep coming. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is scheduled to talk about Duncan’s decision and career on Tuesday in what will likely become an emotional event.

“Probably a top 5 all time player,” Golden State coach and former Spurs guard Steve Kerr wrote on Twitter, “and undoubtedly a top 5 all time teammate. Wow, what a career.”

Duncan joins John Stockton and Kobe Bryant as the only players to spend their entire career of 19 years or more with one team. Duncan’s longevity was such that when he came into the league Vancouver, Seattle and New Jersey all had teams and Washington’s team was called the Bullets. His success was such that the Spurs’ celebratory trips to the White House after title years saw them meet with three different U.S. Presidents.

“The ultimate teammate,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said.

In a game where players get as much attention sometimes for style off the court as they do for flash on it, Duncan was different. He mastered the bank shot, one of the many ways he played a simple brand of game exceptionally well. He didn’t don super-expensive suits, always preferring the comfort of jeans and casual shirts.

And yet he’s still inspiring the generation that follows.

“I wear No. 21 because of him,” said Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, who was 3 when Duncan made his NBA debut.

On Facebook, longtime NBA forward Etan Thomas shared a story from long ago — it happened somewhere between 2002 and 2005 — about a night that he went up against Duncan and got an education.

Literally, Duncan tried teaching him things. During the game.

“So we’re playing the Spurs and I get the ball on the post,” Thomas wrote . “I inside pivot and sweep to the middle for my jump hook and he blocks it. So as we are running down the court he says to me ‘That was a good move but you have to get more into my body so you can either draw the foul or I can’t block it.’”

Confused, Thomas wasn’t sure if Duncan was being helpful or snarky. A few players later, he tried the move again and made the adjustment that Duncan had recommended.

This time, Duncan couldn’t block the shot. Thomas missed anyway, but a lesson was learned.

“He looked at me,” Thomas wrote, “and said much better.”


By the numbers, some of the accomplishments of Tim Duncan, who announced his retirement Monday after 19 NBA seasons, all with the San Antonio Spurs.


1 — Duncan was taken No. 1 overall by the Spurs in 1997.

2 — NBA MVP awards, 2001-02 and 2002-03. Also the number of other players (John Stockton, Kobe Bryant) to spend at least 19 years with one NBA franchise.

3 — NBA Finals MVP awards, 1999, 2003 and 2005. Also the number of decades in which he won NBA championships, something no other player in league history has done, and the number of times he came off the bench in his regular-season career.

5 — NBA championships won, in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014.

8 — Career triple-doubles (four regular season, four playoffs).

10 — Length, in pages, of Duncan’s biography in the Spurs media guide.

15 — All-Star selections.

19 — The number of years he played.

21 — The only jersey number he ever wore with the Spurs.

23 — NBA player of the week awards.

27 — Duncan’s career-high for rebounds, set Jan. 27, 2010 against Atlanta.

50 — Minimum number of games the Spurs have won in each of the last 17 seasons, an NBA record.

53 — Duncan’s career-high for points, set Dec. 26, 2001 against Dallas.

140 — Number of players who appeared in at least one game with the Spurs as a Duncan teammate.

251 — The number of playoff games in which he played. There are 18 active NBA franchises that have not been in as many playoff games.

701 — Games he won alongside both Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, most by a trio in NBA history (575 regular season, 126 playoffs).

835 — His career regular-season dunk total.

1,001 — Regular-season wins in which he appeared, third-most in NBA history. He and Gregg Popovich have the most wins by a player-coach duo in NBA history.

1,005 — Career double-doubles (841 regular season, 164 playoffs).

1,392 — Regular-season games played.

3,020 — His blocked-shot total, fifth-most in NBA history.

4,225 — His assist total, third-best in Spurs history.

9,370 — Career playoff minutes played, most in NBA history.

15,091 — His rebound total, sixth-most in NBA history.

26,496 — His point total, 14th-most in NBA history.

47,368 — His minutes played, 10th-most in NBA history.

14,403,425 — Combined attendance for Spurs regular-season home games during Duncan’s career.

240,000,000 — The estimated worth in dollars of his NBA contracts with the Spurs.