The Old Man of the Year Award goes to the player whose age and production graph are seemingly at odds with common logic. This award shall also henceforth be named the ‘Tim Duncan Award’.
Tim Duncan just turned 39. He is older than Celtics coach Brad Stevens. 20 years older than Dante Exum. He has pretty much been an
ageless time travelling cyborg old man since he came into the league, with a well ageing game founded on fundamentals, patience, intelligence and consistency.
The raw numbers may have dipped with Coach Popovic’s minute management and the occasional ‘DNP-Old’, but the advanced numbers are shockingly steady.
Tim Duncan in 1997–98: 22.6 P.E.R.
Tim Duncan in 2014–15: 22.6 P.E.R.
Duncan spent the entire season playing on one leg, and dropping in nights like this whenever needed.
He won his first title in year 2, won his fifth 15 years later and is primed to challenge for a sixth NBA championship this season. The Spurs have been the model for sustained excellence for the last 17 years with their franchise player waging war against time and nature with craft and repetition as his weapons of choice.
An NBA player’s career graph usually rises, peaks and falls, but Duncan’s has almost been a (high-level)flat-line, as is his demeanour. It’s the same story game after game, year after year: show up — put in work — repeat. In the ADHD-Vine era where most players get 6 looped seconds of internet superstardom, Duncan is a machine age relic of slow grinding workman-like efficiency over 48 minutes.
His entire career is essentially and extrapolation of this 6 second snapshot.
He could retire after this season or play at this level for another five, such is the luxury of being arguably the most consistently dominant player since Kareem.
After winning the 1999 finals, Greg Popovic said to Jeff Van Gundy: “I’ve got Tim [Duncan] and you don’t. That’s the difference.” That was 16 years ago, though it just as well could have been yesterday.