Friday, July 4, 2014
Don't go just yet, Timmy
By Shea Serrano Special to ESPN.com
Tim Duncan will be back for 2014-15, but his eventual retirement is becoming harder to ignore.
For my entire life, I'll remember that the Spurs won their fifth NBA championship on a Sunday, because that particular Sunday was Father's Day, and that was the dopest thing of all. Here's how I would currently (and likely forever) rank the top three of the all Father's Days I've experienced as a dad:
3. Father's Day 2007
My twin sons were born. Oh, man. I couldn't believe that this happened like this. These were my first kids, they were the first boy grandchildren my parents had, they were twins, and they CAME OUT ON FATHER'S DAY. That's Disney movie stuff. They actually weren't due for another five or six weeks, so they had to spend some time in the neonatal intensive care unit of the hospital while their lungs developed or whatever, but it was totally worth it because they got to listen to Game 4 of that year's NBA Finals between the Spurs and Cavs, which is why they came so early, I'm assuming.
2. Father's Day 2011
I received a copy of Bloodsport on DVD.
1. Father's Day 2014
The Spurs won the championship, their greatest ever, erasing from history the stink of 2013's Finals loss (and also, FYI, erasing my desire to put my head in an oven, which is a thing I'd thought about doing at least once every day after they lost the way they lost).
Here's another thing I'm always going to remember from that day, though: The real possibility that Tim Duncan would now retire.
Prior to two Sundays ago, I'd never really considered that Tim Duncan would eventually stop playing professional basketball. I mean, I understood that it was something that would eventually happen, but I'd never considered it more tacitly.
But after Game 5 of the Finals, after they won and everyone was asking him if this was it, if that was the end of his career, he ducked the question. He dodged the question. He sidestepped the question. He never said yes. But he also never said no. And I remember watching it and suddenly becoming overwhelmed with terror and appreciation.
Tim Duncan is going to retire.
Of course, it didn't happen. He recently announced that he's going to play out this final year of his contract -- but for the first time, it hit me:
Eventually, he will. And that’s devastating.
Two things about this realization:
1. I don't want Tim Duncan to retire by winning an NBA championship. I don't imagine he does either. "Going out on top" is the dumbest romantic ideal that I can think of.
I mean, I'd for sure like to see him win another one. I'd like to see him win 50 more, really. But I want him to play until someone beats him, until someone tears his trophy away from him. That's how you die. That's how you finish a career. You don't win and then retire, unless you’re David Robinson and you’ve never done anything wrong in your whole entire life.
You win until someone murders you and becomes champ.
There was this interview Michael Jordan did with Ahmad Rashad last year (or maybe the year before that) for NBA TV in which, when discussing the end of the Bulls' run, he alluded to that:
"It was a very sad situation because we never lost in the Finals," Jordan said. "I never knew what it felt like. At least if you're gonna -- if you're gonna be king of the hill, [be the king] until someone knocks you down and shake their hand and say, 'You enjoy it.'"
I'm inclined to agree with him. Tim Duncan is one of the greatest winners in the history of the NBA. I hope he finishes his career trying to win. That's super noble, and that's the only way I've ever known him to be. That said:
2. I don't even know how to handle the thought of Timmy retiring.
The Spurs drafted him when I was 16 years old. I'm 33 now. I now have a wife and three sons, and Timmy's been with me longer than all of them (and he's way better in the post than they are, too).
I've rooted for him, cheered for him, celebrated with him and commiserated with him for more than half of my life. Ours is a one-sided relationship, but it's one I care about deeply nonetheless. He has, for almost the past two decades, defined my existence as a basketball fan, which, if I really think about things, is probably a sizable part of my existence as a human.
What do I do when he's gone?
What do I do when he's no longer protecting the rim? What do I do when he's not gobbling up rebounds? What do I do when he's not banking in jumpers from the left block? What do I do when he's not throwing down that same one-handed dunk from right underneath the basket? What do I do when he's not protesting foul calls? What do I do when he's not putting his arm around Tony or Manu or Kawhi or any other Spur on the way back to the bench during a timeout after they've done something really great or really terrible? What do I do when he's not on national TV with a bad haircut (or, in most instances, no haircut at all)?
Oh my god, and what about the Spurs? What about MY Spurs? What do THEY do when he's gone?
For so long, being a Spur has meant the same amazing/beautiful/predictable thing. As soon as Timmy retires, with Pop following behind him, all of that is going to change. I'm sure they'll try to keep their systems in place, but I'm also sure it won't be the same. Basically everything I've known about my favorite sports franchise, the one team that I've cheered for my whole entire life, is going to be different.