It can be difficult to see an athlete’s character or impact on their team, aside from what we see during a game or from what we read in an ESPN article, but Tim Duncan gave the San Antonio Spurs over 19 years of success to realize his greatness. Tim brought Spurs fans consecutive winning records and 5 NBA championships, and for that we are grateful.
I didn’t think I was going to get emotional following his retirement because I thought he gave all he had in an honorable way. There would be no regrets. I did get a bit emotional but not as a result of regrets. It was as a result of the countless articles, tweets, Facebook post, and interviews describing his positive impact on the game, the Spurs organization, and San Antonio. It made me think of the impact that I want to have as a leader. Below are the three leadership qualities that Tim Duncan exhibited during his NBA career that everyone should strive to exhibit in their professional lives.
Selflessness - San Antonio Coach, Gregg Popovich, describes it as someone who has gotten over themselves. This quality allowed Tim to handle his early success with class. As a result, he developed trusting relationships with his teammates and coaching staff. There was the idea that they were all in it together – that the team was more important than any one individual no matter the talent. He also set an example for others to follow.
Excellence - Shaquille O’Neal gave Tim the nickname, “The Big Fundamental” because Tim perfected his craft. He wasn’t overly athletic and didn’t necessarily have one unstoppable move. Instead, he developed a seemingly unbreakable all-around repertoire. As a result, he was able to allow the team to change their style of play to respond to the changing circumstances. The Spurs were able to creatively adjust and thrive each year.
Passion - In response to Tim’s retirement announcement, Kobe Bryant described Tim Duncan as, “More cutthroat than people give him credit for. I loved everything about him on the court.” Although he was quiet, Tim wanted to win. We can see this from the 17 consecutive 50 win seasons and 5 NBA championships, but he was also extremely disciplined regarding his diet and rest. That discipline helped him play at such a high level for 19 years. Winning at basketball is one thing, but Tim understood that life was bigger than the NBA. He retired so he can also win at parenting and many other relationships.
Sports analyst and former NBA coach, Mark Jackson, often says that father time is undefeated. Age overcomes all athletes and although this is even true for Tim, his legacy will live on. His impact and leadership helped produce paths for teammates and coaches to find careers throughout the NBA. And on a much smaller scale, it’s inspired me to elevate my leadership impact.