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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Tim Duncan: Last of the Dominant Big Men?

As everyone prepares for Game 5 of the NBA Finals tonight, I 'd like to take this opportunity to acknowledge one of the greatest to ever play the game.

That's right folks, I am talking about none other than Timothy Duncan, power forward for the Western Conference Champion San Antonio Spurs.

In fact, regardless of whether the Spurs win or lose this series, we may be seeing the end of the dominant big man era in basketball.

Duncan, drafted No.1 overall by San Antonio out of Wake Forest(and perhaps the last college senior to ever be the first overall pick), would have an immediate impact for the Spurs as a rookie, averaging 21 points, 11 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game. The following year, a lockout shortened season, the Spurs would win their first ever NBA Championship. Since that time, the Spurs have won three more titles, and they are currently working on their fifth ring.

As the years have gone by, Duncan has quietly gone about his business. And the hardware has kept piling up. He's been selected to the All-Star game 14 times. He's won the league MVP twice, and been named Finals MVP three times. If he wins a fifth ring this June, he will join Kobe Bryant as two of the most decorated superstars of their generation. As a big man, he will trail only the legendary Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics in that category.

And once he retires, it might signal the end of the dominant big man era in professional basketball. It has already become very transparent that teams don't need a big man to succeed in today's NBA, and Dwight Howard has proved with the Lakers that sometimes it can even be a detriment.

Sure there will be people who point to Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert as the changing of the guard. And he had a nice little performance in the Eastern Conference Finals. But until he consistently perform at the level he had during this season, I would say it's premature to call him a dominant big man.

Others would point to Kevin Love and Blake Griffin as examples of dominant bigs. To that, I say call me when either one of those individuals' teams advance beyond the first round of the playoffs. And don't even get me started on Griffin. Let's just say you need to be able to do more than dunk to be considered dominant.

Then there is last year's No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Davis from the University of Kentucky. Considered the best player in college basketball two years ago, someday he might develop into an all-star. Never mind that Duncan played at an All-Star level in his very first season with San Antonio. There will be other big men drafted No. 1 overall, no doubt, but it will be interesting to see what kind of an impact these kids will ultimately have in the league.

Detractors will point to the fact that Duncan has always had a tremendous supporting cast, including Hall of Famer David Robinson, Tony Parker, Sean Elliot, and Manu Ginobli among others. Yet those people also haven't followed the Spurs all that closely, either. Duncan has made each one of those players better the moment he stepped onto the court as a rookie in 1997. Nor can they truly appreciate the on court battles he did with the likes of Shaq, Dirk Nowitski, Dikembe Mutombo and others.

So whether the Spurs win or lose, enjoy the performance that Tim Duncan has put on throughout this postseason, and his career. We may never see one like it again.

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