- Josh Huskin
To truly appreciate soon-to-be Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, all you have to do is look back to the five championships he won during 19 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs.
Let's start back in 1999 when Duncan and David Robinson owned the New York Knicks 4-1 to snag the Spurs' first championship. While a labor dispute shortened that season by three months, Duncan was spectacular. He shot .495 from the field, scored 21.7 points per game and grabbed 11.4 rebounds per game. He would also earn his first NBA Finals MVP award. This highlight reel shows Duncan destroying the double-team, blocking shots, grabbing boards and destroying the Knicks at the rim with slam dunks.
A few years after that first championship, the Spurs would see a huge change in its roster. David Robinson announced his retirement and Duncan officially took the wheel. However, Robinson would win one more championship that year with Duncan before saying goodbye to the NBA. As for Duncan, he would earn his second NBA Finals MVP after the Spurs beat the New Jersey Nets 4-2 to take home their second championship.
In Game 6, Duncan played one of the greatest games ever. He nearly earned a quadruple double with 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and 8 blocks. Duncan also set the record for the most blocks in a playoff series versus the Nets with 32 blocks against the team. This video shows Duncan owning the box and denying the Nets offense over and over while kicking the ball out to the three-point line and snagging board after board.
Two years later, the Spurs won their first championship without Robinson and Duncan earned yet another NBA Finals MVP — his last. Duncan silenced critics that year who suggested that the Spurs couldn't pull off another championship without Robinson. His performance cemented Duncan as one of the greats as the Spurs beat the Detroit Pistons in seven games. The Pistons had come from behind in the series forcing that last game, where the Spurs initially struggled. But true to his champion form, Duncan turned on the heat and dug the Spurs out of a deficit in the third quarter. As the fourth quarter progressed, it was clear the Spurs were going to yet again be world champions. This highlight reel shows Duncan banking masterful shots, hitting threes, making beautiful assists and, of course, tearing his double-teams apart.
Two years later, the San Antonio Spurs swept the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were led by LeBron James. This is the first time James made it to the playoffs and the first time he faced off against Duncan and the Spurs in a rivalry that would last through the rest of Duncan's career. His offense wasn't as potent as it was during the 2005 finals, but his defensive skills completely shut the Cavs down. Duncan even stole the ball from James in mid court. He spent the rest of the game grabbing incredible rebounds and expertly blocking shots that only Duncan could block.
By 2014, Duncan cemented his position of one of the NBA's all-time greats, a point not lost on commentators during Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, who were attempting to win three championships in a row. After a classic shot from the baseline during the first half of that game, one commenter says, referring to Duncan, sometimes scoring is as easy as passing the ball to the Hall of Famer and letting him go to work. Duncan showed his true champion spirit in that game, leading the Spurs to their fifth title following a devastating loss to the Heat the year before. During that Game 5, Duncan did what he did best: basic basketball — banking, rebounding and blocking shots. But when a legend plays fundamental basketball, they can be unstoppable, as Duncan was.
However, no remembrance of Duncan's ability and greatness is possible without that time he kept the game alive against the Phoenix Suns in 2008 during the first round of the finals. The Spurs didn't make it to the championship that year, but Duncan's unlikely three-pointer tied up the contest 104-104 with seconds left and pushed the game into double overtime where the Spurs beat the Suns 117-115.