I was going on 13 and living in a small suburb near Joliet, IL. The Chicago Bulls were in the middle of a dominant second three peat, and I had the audacity to be a Spurs fan.
The Bulls finished the 96-97 season a blistering 69-13. The Spurs? 20-62. I was on the cusp of junior high and my team, the team of my father, was 20-62. The kids at school mocked me as his airness hoisted another trophy.
This was the tumultuous summer that I was introduced to Timothy Duncan.
I remember how excited we were when his name was called. He immediately changed the landscape of the Western conference. We only had to deal with one more Bulls championship and then it happened: the Larry O’Brien came to San Antonio. I was still living an hour south of Chicago, but I felt in tune with my birthplace that summer of 1999. And I knew someday I would live there again.
Fast forward to 2016. I’m married. I’m a parent. And I’m writing this from San Antonio, and the Spurs have just raised Tim Duncan’s jersey.
Five NBA championships. 2 NBA MVP awards. 3 finals MVPs. A shower of accolades for the player that defined a 20 year period of my life.
Tim has been a role model in my adolescence. He shaped what it meant to be a champion for me. Humble. Determined. Kind. He was the apex of teammates, a reminder of the fruit of selflessness: victory and success.
I owe Tim Duncan for a handful of wonderful memories and gratitude for showing me what a true leader looks like in sports. There are so few truly humble role models on the court, and Tim was one of them. He was THE role model.
So thanks, Tim. Enjoy your retirement.