Most top 5 debates in the NBA start off the same way. You have either LeBron or MJ, then you hear an amalgamation of names ranging from Kareem to Magic and even Kobe. However, I think Tim Duncan should be in that conversation a lot more.
The longtime Spur had his fair share of experience in the NBA, the 5-time champion has created a legacy. The Big Fundamental was known for his classic play, meticulously breaking down the defense with his post-move arsenal and offensive rebounding.
He’s exactly what we look for in a top 5 player. Consistency, performance, team and personal success, and longevity. Tim Duncan, at all levels, has managed to achieve those things. Duncan is a top 5 player of all time, but he should be in the conversation for No. 1.
This is definitely the easiest part of convincing people. Tim Duncan was a consistent bucket, great rebounder, and overall offensive threat as an NBA forward.
In his 1997 rookie season, Duncan averaged 21.1 points and 11.9 rebounds a game. Duncan wouldn’t average under 20 points until 2005, his 9th year in the NBA. In his position, averaging 20 points is already difficult. Compared to a hybrid forward/guard like LeBron and a slashing guard like MJ, his feats without being a ball-handler are incredibly impressive.
However, what’s even more impressive is his rebounding. Duncan averaged a double-double in his rookie season and didn’t stop until 2009, his 14th year in the league. He’s tied with Shaq for the 2nd most seasons averaging over 15 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Duncan was averaging almost 14 points at 38 years old, remaining a consistent bucket-getter in the league. You may say that LeBron, MJ, and Kobe all maintained scoring ability throughout their careers. That may be so, but Duncan is one of the only frontcourt players to remain that good for that long.
Let’s start with major awards. Tim Duncan is a 5-time champion, 3-time finals MVP, and 2-time league MVP. Even if you contribute his success to his team, those 2 MVPs hold a lot of weight.
Duncan made an All-NBA team in 15 seasons of his career. However, that’s not what makes him a top-5 player. What gives him that title is his equal amount of seasons as an All-NBA defender.
He made 6 more All-NBA defensive teams as MJ, 4 more All-NBA teams, and was just 1 championship shy from tying him in wins. He has 3 fewer All-NBA teams than LeBron, but 9 more all-defensive honors.
Bron and Jordan get the honors, debates, and media attention. They were elite, and both played for a long time in the league. However, although he doesn’t hold the same level of scoring and playmaking ability, Tim Duncan should be in the conversation for the best ever.
Yet, I know he’s not. With positional bias and athleticism put in the mix, I can’t have him as the best of all time. However, he is without a doubt my No. 3. He showed through his consistency, performance, team success, accolades, and longevity that he is a top-5 NBA player ever.
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