In what will become a daily entry over the course of the next month, Waiver Wire writers Greg Kaplan and Vinny Ginardi will release a list of the the 25 players who they believe to be the best in NBA history. Players were judged on their careers as a whole rather than short stretches of dominance (for example, Bill Walton didn’t make the list due to injuries cutting his career short).
Vinny Ginardi: Because his personality isn’t as flashy as most NBA superstars these days, it can be easy to forget about Tim Duncan. But you shouldn’t.
Duncan became one of the best players as soon as he entered the league, winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1998. In just his second season, he led the Spurs to an NBA championship and earned Finals MVP. Duncan would go on to win two more Finals MVPs (tying him for second most ever) and three more titles. He still has an outside shot to win another title, but Duncan has already cemented his legacy as a top 10 player.
In addition to his winning ways, Duncan has also been named to 12 All-NBA teams (nine first), and 13 All-Defensive teams (eight first). He won back-to-back MVPs (2002-03) , averaged at least 10 rebounds per game in each of his first 13 seasons and at least two blocks per game in each of his first 10 seasons.
Most importantly, Duncan has been well regarded as a great teammate and leader. When he was in his prime, the Spurs were the best team in the league and it wasn’t even close. He had a knack for making everyone around him better while producing on both ends of the floor. When Tim Duncan’s career comes to an end, he will go down as the best power forward of all-time.
Greg Kaplan: Tim Duncan is probably the best power forward to ever play in the NBA. He’s that good. And, like Vinny said, you might not know it, because he doesn’t say a peep about anything or market any products.
For the first 13 years of his career, Duncan averaged a double-double. He’s actually never averaged less than 8.9 rebounds a game in a single season. Its worth repeating all the accolades Vinny has already stated, because I don’t think how rare it is for a player to make 12 All-NBA Teams, 13 All-Defensive Teams, win two MVPs, three Finals MVPs and be the best or second-best player on four championship teams.
For me, the hallmark of greatness is the recognition of a patented move or an skill that even a perfect defense couldn’t stop. For Duncan, its been the sideline jumper that he kisses off the glass from 10-15 feet. Any time Duncan puts that shot up, just stand under the rim and send three guys down the court to set up your half-court offense. Its going in. No doubt about it.
And it wasn’t just that move. There is nothing Duncan didn’t do well on either side of the floor. 50.7% from the field in his career, 68.8% from the charity stripe, the All-Defensive teams we’ve mentioned. Yeah, there were no answers for Timmy Duncan. There are still no answers for Tim Duncan, actually. He played the fewest minutes a night in his career last year, and the legend still put up 15.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 2.3 assists in only 28.2 minutes per night. Stretch that out even an extra four minutes every night (yes, Duncan may have fallen apart if that happened), and he gets up to probably 18 and 10.
We’ve been criticized for a few of the rankings we’ve done so far. But, there is absolutely no disagreement with the greatness of Tim Duncan. His legacy will only get stronger after his playing career is over. One thing is for sure: there is almost no chance of ever seeing a more complete power forward to ever play in the NBA. Ever. Fact.