At 37 years old, a number of “experts” and analysts have been calling for the fall of San Antonio Spurs big man Tim Duncan. A few years ago, it looked as though all of those critics may have been right. Duncan’s knees were giving him problems, he was heavier and slower and it seemed to be taking its toll. Father Time seemed to have finally caught up to the Big Fundamental.
Duncan would not go down without a fight. He changed his diet and his body during the offseason to be lighter, which placed less stress on his knees and gave Duncan, in a way, new life. In the past three seasons, Duncan has led the Spurs to three straight Western Conference Finals appearances, two straight NBA Finals appearances, and one NBA title in 2014.
There are a number of reasons for this seemingly inconceivable stretch of great play from Duncan in his later years. Head coach Gregg Popovich has managed Duncan’s minutes and gameplay meticulously so as to lighten the load on the future Hall-of-Famer. Duncan’s work off the court in his training and his diet has allowed him to continue to play the same way he always has.
The most significant reason for Duncan’s consistency, however, is his style of play. Duncan’s nickname is the Big Fundamental for a reason. Ever since Duncan entered the league, he has focused on fundamentals. Many NBA stars lose their effectiveness with age, but Duncan is different than most of those stars. Duncan has never really relied on his athletic superiority to win games. He has been winning with fundamentals and a sound understanding of the game for years. He hasn’t had to change his style of play to remain relevant in his later years.
As the so-called experts continue to expect Duncan to fall apart, Duncan continues to contribute solid numbers to a dynasty he has had a hand in creating. Barring significant injury, look for Duncan to go out on top, be it this year or five years from now — because honestly, no one has a clue how long he can play.