That Big Fundamental has ushered a small-market franchise through a rough economic decade in solvency is a minor miracle. Duncan’s style of play (which carries over to the team he leads) has often been decried as boring, as unentertaining. (Perhaps even anti-entertainment.) Yet the Spurs remain in the black, the dedicated fan base of San Antonio thrives and Duncan soars on, heading toward his 12th straight postseason and, if form holds, his 12th straight season receiving MVP votes. Many entertainers have done worse.
(Please hold for Kobe fans to freak out, rah-rah-rah, come back when you’re the greatest at your position.)
(Just kidding, Kobe would have been a perfectly reasonable choice here.)
Duncan would probably be my choice, mostly because of his impact overall. The problem with these kinds of decisions is that is instantly a criticism of other players. I have to explain why I didn’t choose Kobe, or Shaq, or LeBron, or whoever. It’s not really about that, though. It’s that I consider the best player of the last ten years to be Tim Duncan. He’s been phenomenal in every phase of the game, being a focal point on offense, a difference maker on defense, a tremendous rebounder, shot blocker, passer, teammate, and leader. He’s directly resulted in titles, and done so in a small market. Had it not been for Duncan, there may not have been a power small market in the last decade. Simply being in LA would have been enough to get you a championship. That’s no good.
The further we get from the Spurs apex (2005?), the more impressive they become, as we start to really see what that franchise has done. From coaching, to execution, to drafting, to player management, they’ve really done an absolutely phenomenal job unlike anything we’ve seen from such a small market. But none of it would have been possible without Duncan.