TIM Duncan was honored, roasted then officially retired as his San Antonio Spurs’ No.21 jersey was raised to the rafters of AT&T Center in a heartfelt ceremony filled with memories, anecdotes and praise for the future NBA Hall of Famer on Sunday (Monday, Manila time).
The retirement ceremony for the five-time NBA champ, two-time MVP, and three-time Finals MVP began after the Spurs dismantled the Pelicans, 113-100, as Duncan’s former teammates and coaches took their best shots at the man who spent his entire 19-year career in San Antonio.
Sean Elliott led the ceremonies as the emcee, and described Duncan as the ‘ultimate teammate’ and how he ‘changed the Spurs organization into the standard of the NBA and all professional sports.
Soon as Elliott handed the mic to Tony Parker, the laughs started coming.
“Timmy is a superstar plus plus, he’s by himself. Timmy will play the game so easy. I would talk to Manu (Ginobili) and say, ‘Timmy was not that good tonight, he had like 30 points and 20 rebounds,” he said.
“Timmy’s got superpowers with his eyes, too. He’s the only teammate who never asked me or talked to me to get the ball, he just looks at me. And when you’re 19 years old coming from France, that’s very scary when he looks at you,” he added, even recalling how a 40-year-old Duncan took a massive Boban Marjanovic on practice for 20 minutes straight just to help the then-Spurs rookie improve.
“You’ve always been the perfect example to follow … except with the clothing,” said Parker, punctuating his speech with a punchline.
Then Ginobili spoke about how Duncan took losses harder than anybody on the team, about the man’s work ethic and unmatched competitive fire, and his big heart for his teammates.
“He was the one always being ready to give you a hug, a pat in the head, so many pats on the head, you know what happened up there,” Ginobili pointing to his bald head and referring to his long hair back when he came in the league.
Ginobili also recalled a crucial turnover he committed in a 2006 playoff game against Sacramento that he didn’t want to talk to anybody and wanted to simply vanish. But Duncan was so resourceful in getting ‘Nanu’ — how the Spurs big man called the Argentinian guard — out of his slump.
“Thank you for your lessons that you never tried to give but you did. Thank you for your friendship. Love you man,” said Ginobili, fighting back tears at that point.
Duncan’s college coach at Wake Forest, Dave Odom, came next and revealed that the No.1 pick in the 1997 NBA draft managed to crack a joke after he went scoreless in his first college game.
“I’m leaving a lot of room for growth,” Odon recalled Duncan’s words at the time.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich stole the show with a lengthy, funny, touching tribute to Duncan. He revealed that Duncan was as wise as he is strange, revealing his demand of getting carrot cake delivered to his hotel door and his habit of wearing his shorts backwards at practice.
But the end of his speech is most memorable.
“I promise I would not use this tissue so I’m not gonna do it,” said Popovich, putting the tissue back in his pocket.
“This is the most important comment that I can make about Tim Duncan, that I can honestly say to Mr. and Mrs. Duncan, who have passed, that that man right there,” Popovich, with a trembling voice and pointing at Tim, “is exactly the same person now as he was when he walked in the door.”
The long-time coach and player hugged at midcourt, followed by a tribute video Duncan narrated himself to thank his teammates, coaches, fans and all the people in his life for his wonderful career. The video was made by his brother Scott, himself a cinematographer.
Then Duncan took the spotlight, spoke about the overwhelming support from the fans, teammates and staff before thanking Popovich for being ‘like a father to him’ in all the years they worked together in San Antonio.
Duncan ended the speech with a few punchlines of his own as well.
“I won a lot of bets tonight. I didn’t wear jeans. I wore a sport coat. I didn’t wear a tie, a bunch of people knew that. And I spoke for more than 30 seconds,” he said, as the crowd laughed. “Thank you, San Antonio. Thank you.”