A standard team press release and a press conference not attended by Tim Duncan was exactly the type of retirement announcement former San Antonio Spurs teammate and current Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Avery Johnson expected for the two-time league MVP.
“This was the way to go out. 19 straight years with one team, one coach, five championships,” Johnson told The Jim Rome Show on Tuesday. “He’s going out the Tim Duncan way. No real official press conference of note, just a team releasing a statement, no fanfare. It’s classic Tim Duncan.”
After the team selected Duncan with the first overall pick in 1997 Draft, it didn’t take long to figure out he was special, Johnson said.
“Once he started training camp he dominated any and everybody, and as we started getting into preseason games and started getting into the season, I was thinking this kid is a MVP type of a player. I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Johnson said. “He had a combination of the Hakeem Olajuwon ‘Dream Shake’ moves. He could defend like David Robinson, and he had the toughness of Patrick Ewing. He just was a combination of those guys. Post moves like Kevin McHale. So I was just amazed at what I saw.”
Johnson said there was also a different side to the quiet and serious Duncan that most of the public saw.
“Tim was a fun guy. Tim was a comedian. You just had a lot of fun with him behind the scenes,” Johnson said. “Big video game guy. Loved going to lunches and dinners with his teammates. He was a special teammate. He was a very encouraging guy on and off the floor. Just very likeable, kept the locker room loose. While the rest of us veteran guys were focused and we saw the light at the end of tunnel for our careers, Tim was just a guy that kept us loose and kept the team going, just a great personality. I loved spending time with him off the court.”
The 1999 NBA Champion even shared some of his favorite memories of Duncan.
“Tim was the guy that would come on the bus going to a road game. He knew I liked donuts, so he would bring me a donut just to make me laugh, you know silly things. In the locker room getting ready for a game, and I can’t find my shorts, and my shorts would be hanging up in the shower somewhere because Tim hung it up. He was just a funny guy man,” Johnson said.
“But on the court, you’re talking about competitive spirit and focus and commitment and practices, loyalty to his craft, and getting to the gym early and staying late. He had it all. A lot of times when guys retire, people lie about their careers to make them look good, but everything you’re hearing about Tim is not even lies, it’s the truth, and all the great things people are saying about him and former teammates, it’s all accurate.”
Johnson said many tried, but no one could rattle Duncan on the court.
“KG and Tim, they had some fierce battles and Tim, whether it was Kevin Garnett or Shaq or anybody, Tim didn’t let any of those guys under his skin,” Johnson said. “He never even talked about those guys. When we got to the locker room it never was a topic of conversation, he just was all about the business of what we can do to win. Sometimes winning meant he had to dominate one -on-one coverage sometimes he had to beat double coverage. Sometimes he had to make the right pass, or if he’s having an off night, it was defending the basket for us. So it was just all about winning. All those times Kevin Garnett was in his ear cussing him out or saying crazy things to him, never effected his demeanor he was always focused. It was always about the next play, what should we do to help the team win.”