Well I dragged myself out of bed this morning, optimistic of the day ahead, only to be disappointed by Twitter. Despite being constantly disappointed by everything on Twitter, this morning was particularly difficult to process. As I stood in the kitchen, brewing my instant coffee, I was brought to tears by the news of Tim Duncan’s retirement announcement.
Of course I had seen this coming, or at least I knew it was a possibility. But in the back of my mind I had this hope that all these “leaning toward retirement” and “recently turned 40” headlines were just click bait. After all, wouldn’t we have known all season that this would be Tim’s last? Wouldn’t we have gotten emails and ESPN alerts about Old Man Riverwalk’s Farewell Tour? “Tim Duncan will be having his last game in your town! Don’t miss it!” Shouldn’t he have had a long, drawn-out interview halfway through the season or at least a press conference to discuss his 19-year career complete with 5 rings, 2 MVP’s, 3 Finals MVP’s, 15 All-Star appearances and even his work for the community through his Tim Duncan Foundation?
I don’t remember getting any sort of promotional messages about that.
It’s like when Beyoncé dropped her album without telling anyone, except rather than overwhelming exhilaration, I felt nauseous about this one. After feeling emotionally drained by my lack of mental preparation, I paused. Of course Tim didn’t do any of that. He’s never been anything but quiet, unpretentious and private. He played like a demon on the court with an angel’s temperament. I mean good lord he once got ejected for laughing on the bench. He was never showy, but damn it he got the job done.
The only example I can come up with to explain the significance of his announcement’s subtlety to someone who doesn’t watch basketball (I just assume all basketball watchers are either Duncan fans or are lacking a soul) is a particular episode of Parks & Recreation. And if you don’t watch basketball or Parks & Rec., I don’t know how to talk to you anyway.
Ron Swanson hates attention and crowds, so he keeps his birthday a secret. He keeps hearing about all the insane surprise parties Leslie Knope has thrown in the past for people like Ann Perkins – balloons, yelling, singing, other people, everything he hates – so he’s overcome with anxiety when he learns that Leslie made it her mission to find out his birthday. And it’s today.
At the end of the episode, Ron is terrified to open the door of his office for fear there will be a raging celebration about to occur. But he’s shocked to find Leslie waiting there for him in his dimly lit office in front of a table decorated with a steak dinner, a glass of whiskey and his favorite movie ready to watch. He relays his shock to her. She simply responds, “Why would I throw Ron Swanson an Ann Perkins party?”
Everyone and their mother knew about Kobe’s retirement. And there’s nothing wrong with what he did – he’s also a legend and he’s allowed to go out with a big public bang if he wants to. His on-court presence would elicit such an exit. But why would Tim Duncan retire in Kobe Bryant fashion? He left the same way he played: humbly. Leaving a lasting impression on everyone.
I’ll miss watching Tim Duncan play basketball. He’s always been one of my heroes and I’m lucky to have grown up in the place he too calls home. I also have to believe it’s some sort of sweet symbolism that Timmy, our dog named after #21 himself, passes away the same year that Timmy the human ends his unforgettable career, passing the torch to Tony (our other dog and #9) and Kawhi (my little brother’s new puppy and #2). Might be a stretch. But Tim Duncan is 7 feet tall. Now that is quite literally a stretch.
It’s eerie to imagine the Spurs sans Timmy, but Kawhi seems to exhibit a similar disposition so cheers to the future. I’m crossing my fingers that maybe the Big Fundamental will even discover a newfound passion for coaching and he along with Becky and Pop can lead us to numero seis. For now I’ll just be keeping dates open for that trip home for the Hall of Fame induction. Thanks, Tim Duncan, for being a selfless teammate, a master of the game and a prime example of an unassuming leader from whom we can all learn.