Tim Duncan retired Monday after 19 NBA seasons, and the sports world is only beginning realize the greatness that is leaving the game.
“I was blessed not just to be drafted with him, but to be friends with him the moment we were drafted,” former Spur Antonio Daniels said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “The guy that the media sees is not Tim at all. He is who he is. In front of the camera, he’s very reserved, doesn’t say too much, doesn’t do too much. When that camera goes off, he has the biggest personality. He loves to laugh, loves to joke, big-time practical joker, huge sense of humor. That’s just who he is. But that’s what you love about him. What you see is what you get. It’s not an act. It’s not, ‘I’m going to act this way for the camera and then act some way completely different.’ Tim is who he is. As far as the media is concerned, he’s very reserved and just kind of says what needs to be said and goes on about his business.”
Daniels, who played for the Spurs from 1998 to 2002, won a championship with Duncan in 1999. The Big Fundamental would win four more, most recently in 2014. While America had love affairs with me-first athletes such as Johnny Manziel, Duncan quietly did his thing – and did it very well.
“America doesn’t embrace what’s quote-unquote boring,” Daniels said. “They love controversy. That’s why reality TV is so popular. If the Spurs had a reality TV show, nobody would be watching it – because you already know what’s coming. Guys are not going to be arguing, guys are not going to be fighting, the front office is not going to be arguing, it’s not going to be fighting – so that’s not something you want to see. Now, there are other teams in professional sports that, if they had a reality TV show, it would sell like crazy because America loves controversy – and that’s not Tim. He’s just about his business. He does his business and he goes home.”
Daniels believes Duncan was the best player of his era and would take him over Kobe Bryant.
“I’m not big on comparing and contrasting players, but Tim Duncan is the best teammate in professional sports history,” Daniels said. “You think about a star of his stature that has done and sacrificed for his organization what Tim Duncan has done and sacrificed for his organization. You’ll be hard-pressed to find one. Think of a star of this stature that leaves like he left yesterday: quietly, under-the-radar, the same way he played. And look at the position that he left the San Antonio Spurs in. He left them in a fantastic position because for the last two years, he’s been taking pay cuts. He’s been sacrificing himself for the last 19 years – and that’s just not what guys do in today’s NBA. That’s not the way it works. In today’s NBA, guys are about me. A guy say, ‘I’ll do anything to win a championship,’ but when it’s time to do winning-championship things, Tim actually doesn’t just talk the talk; he walks the walk as well.”
Daniels, now a Thunder TV analyst, also shared his thoughts on Russell Westbrook, who apparently told his camp attendees that he plans to stay in Oklahoma City. Will he?
“Who knows?” Daniels asked. “In his position right now, if you’re a fan of the Thunder, you want to see him extended obviously. That’s what you want to do. The last thing you want to see happen is what happened this summer – not just with Kevin Durant, but also with Serge Ibaka. You lose two of the cornerstones of this OKC franchise. But I’ll say this – and I’ll say this with confidence: If there is a player in this league that I want leading my team, not just physically but also emotionally and with passion – it is Russell Westbrook. The passion that he plays with on that floor is contagious. So I’m excited. I understand Kevin Durant is gone. You cannot replace that. I will say that. You can’t replace that. But that Kevin Durant departure leaves an opportunity for someone else, and I’ll tell you what: They got the alpha male in charge that they want leading this organization now.”