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Tim Duncan, after winning his fifth championship, faces retirement questions

Jun 16, 2014, 2:23 AM EST

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Tim Duncan jumped into David Robinson’s arms.

Just like 1999, when they celebrated their first championships.

Just like 2003, when they celebrated another title and Robinson’s retirement.

In 2014, it’s too late for any more beginnings. Is this another end?

Long after Robinson closed the Spurs’ Twin Towers chapter, Duncan is still celebrating championships with him.

Duncan has transcended eras, winning with Robinson as his partner in crime then with a guard attack led by Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili and now with Kawhi Leonard winning Finals MVP. Robinson, meanwhile, is enjoying retirement and showing up for closeout games in San Antonio.

It’s a blessed life for both.

When Duncan entered the NBA in 1997, Robinson mentored him. Duncan was such a quick learner and skilled player, Robinson was the last of Duncan’s teammates to carry more-impressive credentials than him. That’s why Robinson holds such a special place to Duncan.

Might Duncan follow his mentor again now?

Robinson was the last Hall of Famer to retire after a championship season, going out on top in 2003. Duncan could do the same this year.

Asked whether it would be difficult to walk away from such a strong team, Duncan said, “Uh, yeah.” But he quickly shut down the discussion.

“I’m guessing you’re leading me into a question that I’m not going to answer,” Duncan said. “So, I will just go ahead and avoid that one.”

Unlike Duncan – who faces a June 24 deadline to exercise his player option – Robinson announced his retirement before his last championship season. Well before he celebrated in 2003, everyone knew that was the end.

If Duncan never plays again, that would be a huge surprise.

Like Robinson, Duncan remained a reliable contributor through his most recent season. Robinson hit several career lows in 2003, but dropping from such a high peak, he remeained a reliable starter. Of the nine Hall of Famers who won a championship in their last season,* none had played as effectively in their final season in more than 30 years.

*David Robinson (2003 Spurs), Mitch Richmond (2002 Lakers), Robert Parish (1997 Bulls), Sam Jones(1969 Celtics), Bill Russell (1969 Celtics), Tom Heinsohn (1965 Celtics), Clyde Lovellette (1964 Celtics), Frank Ramsey (1964 Celtics) and Bill Sharman (1961 Celtics)

Robinson went out on top, but he also went out still playing well.

I suspect that Robinson did so is the main reason so much speculation exists about Duncan following suit. (And the fact that Duncan is 38.)

But Robinson backed himself into a corner – perhaps for the very purpose of not giving himself a chance to second-guess the decision – by announcing his retirement so far in advance. Duncan has not, and as he admitted, it would be very difficult to walk away from all this.

Throughout his post-game interviews, Duncan gave somewhat-conflicting hints about his future.

Asked why he was especially emotional after this title, he said “Just the close of a career. I know it’s coming to an end. I don’t know if I’ll ever have a chance to do this again.”

But he also said, “I’ve always said, as long as I feel I’m going to be effective, I’m going to want to play. And I still feel effective.”

Duncan has now become just the third player to win titles 15 years apart – and the only to do so with the same team.

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Parish retired after his final championship, but by then, he was a bench-warmer with the Bulls.

Abdul-Jabbar returned for one more season after his last title and again reached the Finals. His Lakers were swept by the Pistons, but he received one last standing ovation on the game’s biggest stage as he exited for the final time.

I suspect Duncan will be back next season – and not for the sendoff.

For another championship.

  1. antistratfordian - Jun 16, 2014 at 3:55 AM

    He should give it at least one more go just to see if he can do something he’s never done before – repeat. Why not?

    • azarkhan - Jun 16, 2014 at 10:44 AM

      If you wrote an intelligent comment it would be something you’ve never done before. Why not give it a shot?

      • antistratfordian - Jun 16, 2014 at 3:18 PM

        Well we both know that this isn’t anywhere close to being true. But thanks for being a faithful reader. Whether you like the comments or not, I appreciate your time and consideration.

  2. lakerade - Jun 16, 2014 at 4:07 AM

    He’ll definitely be back, it wasn’t like they eeked out the win, they coasted to it in grand style. That system puts the onus on so many players, thus not putting it all on one player and wearing him out. They’ll all be back to defend it, but things will also be even tougher out West next season.

  3. batoujitsu - Jun 16, 2014 at 5:25 AM

    Agree. Its smarter if he stays. Looks like he will anywaybso this is a non issue

  4. loubearkane - Jun 16, 2014 at 5:34 AM

    Cemented himself as one of if not the greatest Power Forwards of All Time and to think he did all this after playing a FOUR YEAR college career.

    • florida727 - Jun 16, 2014 at 2:22 PM

      I forgot about him staying at Wake Forest for all four years. Glad you mentioned it. Man, who could blame him if he did retire? Can you imagine the wear-and-tear his body has gone through? Even in their system, like #lakerade references, he still takes a pounding. Heck of an athlete.

  5. sportsfan18 - Jun 16, 2014 at 7:43 AM

    Where are the people who said that the league would ensure it went 6 or 7 games so they could make more money etc…?

    I give up, you’re hiding too well…

    • casualcommenter - Jun 16, 2014 at 10:26 AM

      Yeah, I’m not a Heat hater by any means, but I have to admit that I enjoy that the Heat loss in part because the crowd that claims every NBA game is rigged in favor of the Heat has gone silent for once.

  6. bucrightoff - Jun 16, 2014 at 8:19 AM

    He’s still one of the best PFs in the league right now. Their team is still going to be really good next year. One more ring possibly gets him in the top 5 conversation, so why not?

    • zerole00 - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:44 AM

      He should be in the top 5 conversation already, the only reason he isn’t is because he doesn’t draw (unnecessary) attention like other superstars. He just wins.

      • 1heatedtoombrayduh - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:05 AM

        I wholeheartedly agreee timmy should already be in the top 5 discussion..to me hes the greatest PF of All time as long as bill russel is listed as center lol

      • sportsfan18 - Jun 16, 2014 at 2:16 PM

        i’m a huge Duncan fan, but he’s around #9 all time…

        top 5 is rare air…

        oh, Timmy’s career > Kobe’s

  7. zerole00 - Jun 16, 2014 at 9:43 AM

    He’s averaging an (efficient) 15 and 10 at only 10 million a year, I’m sure most teams would jump at the chance at that. As far as being 38 goes, he’s a “young” 38 considering Pop has managed his minutes for what – the last decade?

    If he wants to play, he definitely still can at a competitive level. Especially for a team like the Spurs who don’t ask or need him to play hero ball.

  8. bknowledge - Jun 16, 2014 at 10:23 AM

    Instead of asking him if he’s gonna retire, can someone please ask him how it feels to be the greatest player of his generation? and what advice he would give to younger players on how to have a successful career? and what he thinks have been the key to his greatness/his teams greatness?

  9. casualcommenter - Jun 16, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    He should come back for one more year.
    He’s only asked to play around 28 minutes per game in the regular season, and he can take a dozen or so games off completely.

    Either he wins another ring next year or he retires knowing that he at least put himself in a position to potentially repeat as a champion. Retiring now could lead to regret if the Spurs come close to another championship next year but fall short without him.

    • sportsfan18 - Jun 16, 2014 at 2:21 PM

      of course that’s just “us” being selfish and wanting him to play…

      depends on how he FEELS, his knees, his back, if he’s mentally tired of the grind, working out, film study, travel, being away from kids…

      depends on how strong Timmy feels about things in life, hobbies, interests that he can’t WAIT to get to and tackle as one who has earned OVER $200 million in his career is able to pick and choose what he wants to do and be involved in.

      he’s given quite a lot to the team and yes he’s been very well compensated too.

      Timmy, I’d love to watch you play another season but I hope you take some time to figure out what it is that YOU want to do.

      Follow your hear Timmy.

      Glad to see the Admiral there too. Robinson is a great man, has donated so much to those in need, he’s called the Goliath of Giving in terms of NBA players…

      Would be great to see Timmy there when the Spurs clinch when Kawhi’s like 37 yrs old in the future…

  10. parasolmonster - Jun 16, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    I like how this article entirely about Tim Duncan is punctuated with a video that has a freeze-frame of LeBron. Pretty much sums this entire title for the Spurs – “congrats, but let’s talk about Miami instead!”

    • the1nonlyk - Jun 16, 2014 at 7:45 PM

      so true but u know the spurs dont give a sit

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