It’s Time For The San Antonio Spurs Fans To Let Go

Apr 22, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan looks on in the fourth quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at FedExForum. Spurs defeated Grizzlies 96-87. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 22, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan looks on in the fourth quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at FedExForum. Spurs defeated Grizzlies 96-87. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports /

As much as we San Antonio Spurs fans may hate it, it’s time to wish Tim Duncan well and let him enjoy his post-Spurs life.

Breaking up is hard to do.

Since 1997, the San Antonio Spurs and their faithful fans have been engaged in a mutually beneficial relationship that has certainly seen its share of ups and downs and questionable times as well.

Overall, though, the relationship has been a good one–good enough to put not one, but five rings on it.

But what happens when that relationship, which had been so strong and endured so much, no longer serves? Breakups usually happen because one or both parties in the relationship have outgrown each other, or just no longer have anything in common.

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Even when they do, the feelings that got them together in the first place are just no longer there. That’s not to say that there is an absence of feeling; just that what got you to that point is no longer relevant or applicable.

We’re at that point as Spurs captain, longtime franchise face and NBA legend Tim Duncan approaches yet another retirement decision. While the signs point to him hanging up his TD21s more so now than at any other time in the past few years, he still has not made a public decision.

Duncan technically has until Wednesday, June 29 to exercise his option on the final year of his two-year, heavily discounted contract (LaMarcus Aldridge needs to kiss the hem of Duncan’s garment at every practice and game day).

Picking up this player option (or not) is not necessarily a harbinger of retirement but if he opts out, it will surely set tongues wagging.

Go on social media (especially Instagram) and there are countless implorings for Duncan to come back for one more year.

Never mind that, after bringing the Spurs’ first-ever NBA championship to the Alamo City in 1999, plus being an integral part of the next four, the man has earned the right to sit down and play video games all day, or work on his cars, if he wanted.

And we won’t even mention the wear and tear on his 40-year-old body, even with the rejuvenative properties of his offseason workout.

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Nineteen seasons is a long time to love someone.

I will be among those who shed a tear whenever Duncan does decide to chuck the deuces at his illustrious NBA career.

I will probably be in the minority of those who will be glad that he does: not because of any performance issues on the court (despite his diminished role this past season, Duncan was still pretty effective and managed to make or break a few more NBA records), but because for once in his life, he will be able to live it without accounting to anyone but his children.

The NBA lifestyle, like that of any professional athlete, looks glamorous from the outside.

Lucrative endorsement deals; top-shelf swag (which is usually free, or at least at a steep discount); global travel; VIP status as a rule and not an exception; and, of course, the paychecks with all those zeros being directly deposited into their bank accounts–what’s not to like?

But there is a price to pay for everything, and players give up a lot in exchange for all that shine. Time away from family and missing out on important events.

Being at the whim of mercurial team owners (fun fact: only five currently active players have a no-trade clause in their contracts: Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki [Dallas Mavericks], Dwyane Wade [Miami Heat], Carmelo Anthony [New York Knicks], and Kevin Garnett [Minnesota Timberwolves].

Kobe Bryant had one too, but he’s now retired from the Los Angeles Lakers).

Then there’s lack of privacy. Especially lack of privacy, because fans believe that players on their favorite teams belong to them, like a family pet.

This is the case in San Antonio, where Duncan is revered. One always has a soft spot for the person to whom one loses one’s virginity, and the Alamo City certainly gets gooey for the man who delivered their first-ever franchise championship.

(Shoutout to the Spurs for winning the No. 1 lottery pick in the 1997 draft, which enabled them to snag Duncan after he graduated from Wake Forest University).

The man can’t even shop for groceries without a fan taking a sneak pic (and you knew it was a sneak pic, because it is well known around San Antonio that Duncan nixes any fan pics of his children).

And a random outing to a local sporting goods store becomes a thing.

Bless his heart.

So no, Spurs fans aren’t ready to let go, and who could blame us?

Despite the emergence and anointing of Kawhi Leonard as the face of the franchise going forward, plus the addition of Aldridge, who–along with Leonard and Danny Green–make The New Big Three, this is still, and will always be on some level, Duncan’s team.

Part of being in a relationship means caring about the other person. And when you’re in love, you tend to put that person’s needs above your own. Spurs fans may want to think about that as Duncan’s retirement looms … whenever.

Instead of asking what Duncan can do for the Spurs fans, perhaps it’s time to think about what Spurs fans can do for Duncan.

As in: let that man cook. Let him retire when he wants. Thank him for his service and dedication. And keep it moving.

Love means sacrifice, and it means wanting the best for the other person–even if that best does not reside in you or with you.

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If Spurs fans really loved Duncan, we’d look at his eventual retirement as a blessing, not an unfortunate event.

We’d rejoice that he’d made his peace with his accomplishments and his place in NBA history as the greatest power forward ever, and with his Hall of Fame enshrinement a lock.

We’d be happy that he was finally thinking about himself for once, and not how he may or may not disappoint the team, or the fans, or the league.

We’d appreciate all he’s done for the franchise, often going above and beyond the call of duty.

We’d let the bittersweet tears fall.

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And we’d let him go, with our blessing.