Since the Los Angeles Lakers finished the 2015-16 NBA season with all of seventeen wins, the narrative of the Lakers’ season was focused upon the leisurely farewell tour of 37-year-old team “leader” Kobe Bryant. Bryant’s career and accomplishments (1-time MVP, 18-time All-Star, 15-time All-NBA, 11-time all defense, 5-time NBA champion, 2-time scoring champion, etc.) were considered in depth, his place amongst the all-time greats debated, he was celebrated at the All-Star game in Toronto, and walked away from the game to applause. In the final game of the season he set the scoring record for a player in his final game with sixty points (on a very Bryant-esque fifty shots). If Bryant’s storied career is celebrated in this fashion, why not afford the same courtesy to a player that people actually like? Tim Duncan, please play one more season.
While Tim Duncan has never been as high-profile a player as Bryant but he does occupy the same strata when it comes to achievement. He is also a five-time champion, he is a two-time MVP, a fifteen-time All-NBA player, a fifteen-time All-Defensive player, and 1998 rookie of the year. The prospect of the forty-year-old Duncan’s retirement hung over the Spur’s 2015-16 season but, especially when compared the fanfare afforded Bryant’s farewell, his seemingly imminent departure has gone largely unremarked upon. This is certainly a combination of the marginal uncertainty of Duncan’s retirement and the fact that Bryant’s retirement was the most notable element of the Lakers’ season; The Spurs were a good team with games to win. Duncan is as accomplished a basketball player as Bryant without possessing Bryant’s toxic reputation as a bad teammate who drove away other talented players and treated second-tier players like human garbage.
Where Kobe has always been the confident bully, Duncan is the most dominant nerd in NBA history, a power forward with great range who espouses a love of Renaissance faires, Dungeons & Dragons, and playing as himself on video games. He is the subject of a hilarious series of articles in The Onion poking fun at his straitlaced demeanor. This is a man who, in a farewell game, would likely go eleven for twenty from the field, pull down about nine rebounds, maybe record a block or two and call it a night. He deserves a fond farewell. However, even if Duncan does play in the ‘16-’17 season, we are unlikely to know if a game will be his last until it is already over. The Spurs will almost certainly qualify for the playoffs next year so, unless the Spurs make it to game seven of the finals, we won’t know which game is Duncan’s farewell, and there’s, like, no way The Warriors won’t be in the finals next year. Still, let us celebrate the man at the All-Star game and the regular-season finale. Tim Duncan, you sweet, sweet dweeb, come back to us one more time.