The 2014 NBA Finals commenced on Thursday, Jun. 5. The San Antonio Spurs took down the Miami Heat by a score of 110-95 in a game that featured a broken air conditioning system, cramps and a wild final four minutes that saw a two-point lead expand to a 15-point blowout.
The star of the show: Tim Duncan. What else is new?
It was a somewhat controversial, but mostly unfortunate game. LeBron James left due to legs cramps with 3:59 remaining in the fourth quarter, and from that point on, the Spurs’ three-point barrage was too much to handle.
Through it all, one man’s impact on the game was powerful both with LeBron on and off of the court: Duncan. He helped the Spurs overcome 23 turnovers by stuffing the stat sheet as a scorer and rebounder.
The ageless wonder strikes again.
Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs is one of the most exceptional players in NBA history. By that, of course, I mean to say that Duncan is the exception to most rules that pertain to aging in the association.
That was never more evident than during Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals.
At 38 years old, Duncan is far past the stage of being one of the best players in the world. Rather than fading away into obscurity, Duncan ages more like fine wine: he just keeps getting better with time.
During Game 1, Duncan poured in 21 points, 10 rebounds and three assists on 9-of-10 shooting from the field. It was yet another dominant performance by a man who’s made his name by displaying close to unparalleled consistency.
In fact, his level of consistency is only matched by the great Magic Johnson.
With his last rebound, Tim Duncan picked up his 156th playoff double-double. He’s one behind Magic Johnson.
— Quixem Ramirez (@quixem) June 6, 2014
That put him in rare company. Then again, when isn’t Duncan associated with the all-time greats? If you think that’s the extent of the brilliance behind Duncan’s outstanding performance, you’re wrong. As always seems to be the case with the 38-year-old, the primary achievement features secondary and tertiary achievements. On top of being associated with Magic, Duncan joined the ranks of two legendary big men. The first of which is the ultimate comparison:
That isn’t it. Duncan’s 21 points were a team-high. That may seem like your run-of-the-mill statistic, but it’s not. Not when the player who achieved it is 38 years old and playing in the NBA Finals. Not when the last player to do something like this was a Hall of Famer:
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar finished with 32 points to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 106-93 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the 1987 NBA Finals.
Duncan is safe in the Hall of Fame. The general consensus throughout basketball circles is that he’s the greatest power forward to ever play in the NBA.
For as incredible as he may be, his career is not yet complete. Every passing game adds more to his legend and helps him move further on up the all-time list of players.
This singular performance does nothing but strengthen his legacy.
At a time in which the league has generally shifted to an up-tempo pace, Duncan continues to adapt. For all of his brilliance when working out of the post, he’s become a weapon in the pick-and-roll game.
At 38 years old, the old-timer has mastered the craft that his younger and more athletic peers are still attempting to perfect.
As the Finals rage on, there is a harsh reality that we must accept: this could be Duncan’s last season. For as well as he’s played throughout the 2013-14 season, and for all of the odds that he’s defied, Duncan is approaching 40.
In the mold of Rocky Marciano, it’s not improbable for Duncan to want to go out on top. Nor is it unlikely that he’d like to retire before his efficiency and effectiveness deteriorates.
The best thing for the sports community to do is to enjoy this while you can. Marvel over the fact that, even at the age of 38, Duncan is one of the best players on the face of the planet.
Watch with a keen eye and hold onto every memory as Duncan’s legacy continues to grow. Enjoy history as it happens before your very eyes.