San Antonio Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich ruined perfectly good food when he got the chance to draft Tim Duncan

May 31, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich reacts to a play in action against the Oklahoma City Thunder in game six of the Western Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The dead days between the conference finals and NBA Finals are a perfect place for longer retrospectives on players, coaches and seasons past, and today featured a doozy. Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News has the definitive oral history of Tim Duncan, in which McCarney reveals that the San Antonio Spurs’ fortune in moving up in the draft to select Duncan was the unfortunate end to Gregg Popovich’s hamburger.

There was zero question that Duncan was the top pick in 1997. The only drama was which franchise would have the privilege of taking him. Boston had the best chance of winning the lottery at 28 percent — odds good enough to entice Rick Pitino to leave the University of Kentucky for the mere chance of re-building the Celtics around Duncan. The Spurs, having fallen to 20-62 in an injury-plagued season, had even slimmer odds at 22 percent.


Popovich: “We were in a big tent that was next to the studios and they called us to go sit in the stands. I didn’t go in because there was no way we had a chance to get the No. 1 pick. I just stayed in the tent where the food and the beer were. I’m the only guy in the tent. Everybody vacated.


“So I’m watching this little TV, eating a burger and drinking a beer and they get to the pick that was supposed to be us. But it was somebody else. I couldn’t believe it. I was so shocked that I literally dropped my hamburger on the ground. It was unbelievable. One of us was going to get Duncan.


“All these people come rushing in the tent, just rushing at me. They were congratulating me like I had done something. I didn’t do anything but eat a burger and they were rushing me telling me what a good job I had done.”


via San Antonio Spurs News, Scores, Stats & Analysis – Spurs Nation » Fundamental greatness: The oral history of Tim Duncan.

Click through for insight into Duncan’s entrance into the beautiful game of basketball, his relationship with Popovich, the time that he almost left the San Antonio Spurs for the Orlando Magic and countless other anecdotes and peculiarities of the Tim Duncan Experience. Combined with ESPN’s Marc Stein’s impressive retrospective on the Spurs’ dynamic duo, it’s a good time to be on the look for a peek behind the curtain with the San Antonio Spurs, Duncan, and coach Popovich.

There’s one question, however, that’s gone completely unanswered to this point.

What the hell happened to the hamburger? Did Pop “literally” drop his hamburger to the ground, or is he going Chris Traeger on us with his application of the adverb? If said bunned beef patty did in fact tumble to fair Mother Earth, did Pop pick it up and finish it off? I mean, he said that all he did was “eat a burger” in order for the San Antonio Spurs to win the lottery and draft Tim Duncan; he didn’t say he ate half a burger, then had to feed it to the birds after he dropped it in shock.

Therefore, there are four possibilities:

  1. Coach Gregg Popovich is a firm believer in the five-second rule and was willing to finish his hamburger.
  2. Pop did not drop his hamburger and is simply exaggerating for effect.
  3. Pop is obfuscating, intentionally leaving out certain details of the story, which totally does not sound like Pop at all in the slightest.
  4. Aliens.

Wherever you went, little burger, may you rest in peace, safe in the knowledge that your heroic sacrifice made the San Antonio Spurs dynasty possible. Great things for such a humble patt-


Andrew Lynch

When God Shammgod created the basketball universe, Andrew Lynch was there. His belief in the superiority of advanced statistics and the eventual triumph of expected value-based analytics stems from the fact that he’s roughly as old as the concept of counting. With that said, he still loves the beauty of basketball played at the highest level — it reminds him of the splendor of the first Olympics — and the stories that spring forth from the games, since he once beat Homer in a game of rock-paper-scissors over a cup of hemlock. Dude’s old.