Tim Duncan, who retired Monday from professional basketball, once played against the New York Knicks in the NBA Finals. No doubt you've seen a deluge of anecdotes and statistics to summarize the career of the greatest power forward of all time -- 15 All-Star appearances, 2 MVP awards, 3 Finals MVP awards, 1 All-Star Game MVP award (The Big Fundamental won All-Star Game MVP? Yeah, it happened) -- but nothing quite captures the incredible breadth of his career better than that first sentence: He played against the Knicks in the Finals.
Duncan would go on to win four more titles. Surely his seven-game battle with the Pistons or his back-to-back duels with LeBron James's Heat are planted more firmly in the memory banks of most NBA fans, but we were his first, dammit!
A 22-year-old Duncan decimated the Knicks to the tune of 27.4 points, 14 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.2 blocks per game en route to a five-game Spurs victory. Since this is a Knicks site, I'll only post video from Game 3 (try and stop me!):
The video quality might as well be from the '80s. David Robinson and Latrell Sprewell now film priceline.com commercials together. Sean Elliott is now one of the worst announcers on Earth. Allan Houston, who led all scorers with 34 points, eventually became far more famous for his ridiculous contract, a fact that pretty much sums up the next two decades for the franchise.
But then there was always Tim Duncan, still plugging away down low for the Suprs, the last remaining thread tying the modern game to a bygone era when the Knicks were a team to be reckoned with. Young me hated Duncan for a while after '99, until I realized he and the magical '98-'99 squad were inextricably linked. I cursed Phil Jackson for daring to say that the Spurs' lockout-shortened '99 title deserves an asterisk. Screw you, Phil! Their title was real! New York's Eastern Conference title was real! Our Knicks were there, and they lost to one of the greatest players every to pick up a basketball.
Honestly, those days seem a whole lot farther from view now that Timmy is gone. We'll miss you, big guy. Here's hoping you show up two years from now to hand the Finals MVP award to 22-year-old Kristaps Porzingis.