Losing to Miami wasn’t part of the plan. With just under 30 seconds left in game six, it seemed that the Spurs and Tim Duncan would finally be destined to acquire their fifth and much coveted championship ring. A victory of this magnitude not only would have capped off a stellar and memorable season for the resurgent Spurs, it would have placed Tim Duncan in the discussion as being one of the greatest players of all time. Duncan valiantly managed to be an insightful leader on the court as well as an individually gifted athlete that didn’t seem to be bothered by the realization that his best years were behind him. In the face adversity, Duncan displayed a unwavering determination to win no matter what the stakes were or how much pressure was resting on his shoulders to lead his team to the promised land. While Duncan didn’t fail in this regard, the fact that the Spurs chocked against the Heat when they had a grand opportunity to finish what they started unquestionably forces Duncan to make a critical and career altering decision; Should he stay with the Spurs one more year to chase that elusive fifth ring or should he call it quits and be satisfied with the illustrious career he has had thus far?
Physically, it doesn’t appear Duncan is a man who carriers any type of debilitating ailments that would prevent him from being apart of another dominant season. From the beginning of the regular season to the devastating loss to the Miami Heat in game 7 of the NBA Finals, Duncan displayed his athletic prowess consistently when it mattered most. One of the most dominant power forwards in the game, Duncan showed an uncanny ability to shoot the ball with delicate precision while using his size to create opportunities for easy lay ups and smooth mid range fade a ways. His defensive game was also extremely impressive by being actively persistent in creating turnovers while garnering nearly three blocks per game. Even if his opponent succeeded in getting off a contested shot, Duncan never gave up on a play and always pursued the basket eagerly to retain a defensive rebound (Duncan averaged 10 rebounds throughout the season).
In terms of team cohesiveness, Tim Duncan would be welcomed back with open arms by a team that would be completely intact from last year. Along with having veterans Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to back him up, he would also have a young bench that has proven it can be dominantly effective at a moments notice. Between the sensational perimeter shooting of Danny Green and Gary Neal while having Kawhi Leonard has a phenomenal stand in at the power forward position, Duncan would be surrounded by athletically gifted teammates who could prominently help the aging four time champion acquire his fifth ring. While Ginobili himself has shown signs of debilitating inconsistency (particularly in the NBA Finals), Duncan’s confident and awe inspiring presence would help Ginobili tremendously in overcoming these nagging on the court issues.
While these incentives offer Duncan a grand and enticing opportunity to garner his fifth championship victory, there is a much more innate and burning desire that will drive Duncan to compete harder than he ever has before; to be considered one of the best players of all time. Despite the fact that Duncan has already proven he his worthy of being in the hall of fame along with having his jersey retired by the Spurs franchise, in the end it simply isn’t enough. When a player is considered to be great they ultimately want to be more than just another superstar who has paid their dues. Any player who has earned and fought desperately for a ring knows the burning desire that remains to garner another one. For a gifted and inspirational player like Duncan, going down as a one of the greatest power forwards of all time along with being apart of four championship teams isn’t good enough. While it’s a rare achievement that most players never get to experience in their careers, when you have gone this far only to be stopped firmly in your tracks from reaching your ultimate goal, all the other pinnacle moments in your career pale in comparison to the goal that you wish to achieve. Just as Kobe continues to chase a sixth ring in attempt to establish himself as an equal to Michael Jordan in terms of hardware, Duncan is also pursuing a vivid prophetic vision where he is finally considered to be one of the top five best and not just of his generation.
In the end, while the notion of retiring as a phenomenal player who personified what it means to be a classy and inspirational leader is undoubtedly appealing, the lingering desire and hunger to take what should have been his is even greater. Even after seventeen years of fighting tirelessly, Duncan would rather look back on his career with a nostalgically eternal retrospect over spending his post NBA career wondering what could have been for the rest of his life