There were few smiles and fewer celebrations along the way. Emotion was seldom dished out.
The man known as “The Big Fundamental,” has just gone about his business.
He grabbed his rebounds, scored his points in the post and won.
And won a lot.
In fact, three more wins and “The Big Fundamental,” Tim Duncan, might be the greatest power forward to ever play the game of basketball.
When Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs beat the Miami Heat on Thursday to take a 1-0 series lead in the NBA Finals, the headlines all went to Tony Parker. The point guard hit the game-winning shot, barely beating a shot-clock violation with 5.2 seconds left. He dished out six assists and led the Spurs with 21 points.
Duncan, as always, just sat back and did what he always does. There was no trash talking after the game. There was no post-game interview where he contemplated his own greatness.
He scored 20 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and dished out four assists.
But, Parker could have the headlines.
All that matters to Duncan is getting three more wins.
Of course, that is all that has ever mattered to Duncan. Seemingly, his numbers never did.
However, at the age of 37, Duncan had one of the best statistical seasons of his career. He was no where near his all-time high scoring average of 25.5 points per game or his rebounding average (12.9 per game).
He simply does not play enough minutes to do that anymore, averaging a tad more than 30 minutes per game.
But, he was wildy effective.
His 24.45 PER (player efficiency rating) was on par with his performance from 2007 to 2010 and was an improvement from his last two seasons where he posted 21.94 and 22.60 PERs.
That is right. “The Big Fundamental” is getting even better with age.
He won his first NBA title and first NBA Finals MVP at the age of 23 in 1999 and was 31 when the Spurs won their fourth title in 2005.
He is not as dominant as he was when the Spurs won the 2003 and 2005 titles. But, who expected him to be this good 10 years removed from title No. 2?
And that longevity — and the four NBA championships already in hand — is what makes Duncan one of the best players of all-time.
Of course, no one is going to rank him higher than Michael Jordan. He is not going to out do Magic Johnson or Bill Russell, either. But, he is better than Kevin McHale, Charles Barkley, Dirk Nowitzki, Karl Malone and Bob Pettit.
OK, so maybe the list at power forward is not as strong as other positions. You don’t have to decide between Julius Erving, Larry Bird, John Havlicek and LeBron James like you would at small forward. My vote, for now, belongs to Larry “Legend.”
LeBron has a chance, but he needs to win more than one title to be the greatest of all-time. Heck, Scottie Pippen has six titles — yes, all Jordan aided — and is hard-pressed to crack the top-10 at the postion.
At center the debate begins with Bill Russell and usually ends there, but Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal all usually receive a fair show of votes.
But power forward? The lack of titles from some of the elites like Barkley and Malone make it an open race — one that Duncan is leading.
He doesn’t have a bunch of shoe or Gatorade commercials. He had one for American Express back in 2004.
He did one for H-E-B. No, he is not flashy. Not in life, not on TV and not even his game. He was never a member of “Lob City.”
But, Tim Duncan might be the best power forward of all-time.
All he needs is three more wins to prove it.
Contact Nick Talbot at email@example.com or (254) 501-7569