Bill Simmons has written a two-part column about Tim Duncan. Yes, a two-part column, which means Bill should be putting out another column sometime late summer. Bill has written that Tim Duncan is just like the show "South Park," because how could a television show and an athlete not be exactly alike? Sports are just like television. This column contains the typical Bill Simmons contradictions. For example, he whines about the Celtics not getting the #1 overall pick to choose Tim Duncan, while also trying to prove that Tim Duncan wasn't a consensus #1 overall pick and teams were seriously considering taking Keith Van Horn instead. So the Celtics were tanking to draft Duncan, yet Bill wants us to believe some NBA teams weren't completely sold Duncan should have been the #1 overall pick. Anyway, Bill calls Tim Duncan's career "the Duncan Show," because again, sports are just like television shows!...well, only in Bill's mind is this true.
The San Antonio Spurs picked Tim Duncan on June 25, 1997, about seven
weeks before Matt Stone and Trey Parker launched their new animated
series on Comedy Central.
In other news of events that are completely not related, but for the sake of a column I will try to make them seem related, Tupac died in September 1996 and six weeks later the Yankees won the World Series. Did the Yankees kill Tupac so they could create a late 90's/early 00's baseball dynasty?
Sixteen years later, the Spurs and South Park are still chugging
along like kindred spirits; in a goofy twist, Duncan's only fun nickname
("Timmaaaaaaaay") comes from that show.
It's not really a twist at all. There's no correlation between "South Park" and Tim Duncan, so it is a pure coincidence this nickname comes from the show.
Both the Spurs and South Park generated so many classic moments over the years, they practically blend into each other now.
A professional basketball team and a 30 minute comedy on cable television, it's pretty much the exact same thing at this point. Someone says "Tim Duncan," and I think "an alien anal probe" and someone says "crudely animated grade-school children who have foul mouths" and I immediately think of the San Antonio Spurs.
They were lavished with critical acclaim while being overshadowed by more popular network shows (the Lakers and The Simpsons, respectively).
Bill reaches for a lot for pop culture comparisons to sports teams, but he has absolutely outdone himself here. The Lakers nor the Spurs are a network show.
Every time they seemed ready to lose their relevance, they rallied back. You know, like right now.
Yes, they have rallied for relevance right now, even though "South Park" aired it's last episode November 7, 2012 and won't air again until September of 2013. The Spurs are in the NBA Finals and "South Park" had it's lowest ratings in three seasons. They're both relevant again, unless you want to count the ratings of "South Park" that wouldn't necessarily say the show is "back." It's still a good show of course.
Again, Bill is reaching for this comparison so I feel silly even breaking the comparison down.
It's easier to put San Antonio's unprecedented run in perspective. The
Spurs won four titles in nine years. They made two different Finals 14
years apart. They won 70 percent of their games without ever missing a
postseason. They never won fewer than 50 games except for the '99
lockout season (when they finished 37-13).
Just like "South Park"!
Their three signature players (Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker)
have played together 11 years, one away from passing the original Big
Three (Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish) as the
longest-running three-star alliance.
Notice how Bill feels free to extend a Spurs analogy to pop culture, but when it comes time for an analogy for the Spurs "Big 3" he won't leave the NBA for this analogy because he wouldn't get to talk ever-so-briefly about the Boston Celtics. If the Spurs are like "South Park" isn't the Spurs "Big 3" time having played together a little further behind the Yankees "Big 3" of Jeter, Rivera, and Posada? After all, sports are more analogous to sports, right?
There's been a misconception over these past 16 years that Duncan's Spurs were boring, that America repeatedly rejected them. Uh-oh, here come the small-market Spurs again. Get ready for lousy ratings!
Bill and I agree on something...finally.
Despite unrivaled success, unprecedented continuity, enviable chemistry
and innovative thinking, the Spurs never received the same mainstream
recognition that, say, the Patriots always did.
Really the only comparison that can be used here is the Patriots. No other professional sports teams have achieved continuity and mainstream recognition.
Their biggest issue wasn't their fault: Until this month, they never
found the right Finals opponent, someone who brought out the best in
them and produced riveting basketball. Remember, the Patriots
played five unforgettable Super Bowls against the Rams, Panthers, Eagles
and the Giants (twice).
MY TEAM'S SUPER BOWLS ARE MORE EXCITING THAN YOUR TEAM'S SUPER BOWLS!
Also, that Patriots-Eagles Super Bowl wasn't entirely exciting. It was good, but I wouldn't put it on par with the other four listed here.
Until this month, the Spurs never drew a Finals opponent that made you
say, "I can't wait for this one!" That's just bad luck, even if that
same luck helped them win all four of those series.
Other than when the Spurs played the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, thereby playing LeBron James in his first NBA Finals appearance. I guess playing LeBron in his first NBA Finals appearance isn't very exciting to watch.
Are the Spurs a dynasty? Of course not.
"Of course not"? They have had great success over a decade with a core set of players and won multiple championships in that time. I would say the Spurs are pretty close to a dynasty, even if the one thing that is holding them back the most (not winning back-to-back titles) could also be seen as a reason they are a dynasty. Simply put, the Spurs have been great for a long period of time and have managed to win championships against a variety of types of teams. I'd be pretty close to calling the Spurs a dynasty since they have been great for so long.
Think of them as The Duncan Show and it makes more sense.
It actually makes much, much less sense to view the Spurs as a television show. Bill is always reaching for a column idea of late.
I hope not to confuse everyone, but I'm going to skip the part where Bill labels each year of Duncan's year as "The Duncan Show: Season 1" or some variation of that. I can't buy into his "Duncan as a television show" gimmick.
When Robinson missed the first six weeks of the '97 season with a back
injury, the Spurs staggered to a 3-15 start. He returned and immediately
broke his left foot, inadvertently murdering their season and thousands
of Robinson's fantasy owners. (Note: I was one of them. You know how
many total games Robinson played? Six! I'm still bitter.) After then-GM
Popovich fired Bob Hill and took over coaching duties, some mistakenly
remember the Spurs tanking for a Duncan lottery ticket. Not entirely
Thank God Bill Simmons has corrected this misconception. Without the VP of Common Sense we wouldn't have a clue what has happened in the NBA over the last 30 years. It's nice to have experts like Bill around to correct misconceptions he knows we all hold.
Since the expansion Grizzlies were ineligible for the no. 1 pick, the
Celtics had a 36.3 percent chance at getting Duncan. San Antonio? 21.4
You know what happened next.
The tortured Celtics didn't end up winning the lottery in 1997, much like how many of the worst teams in the NBA the season before don't end up winning the lottery. But take it from Bill, the Celtics are so much more tortured by not getting the #1 overall pick than any of these other NBA teams who didn't win the lottery could ever be. The Celtics misery is much greater than any other NBA team's misery and Bill has to whine a little bit about his bad luck.
Hold on, I have to throw scalding acid in my eyes. Just give me one second.
Grow a pair you little drama queen.
As crazy as this seems now, some experts wondered if Duncan and
Robinson could coexist. Before the '97 draft, some Spurs fans argued for
Keith Van Horn over Duncan because they already had a center.
I don't recall this happening. BUT, Bill does have one column in "The New York Times" as proof, so clearly one "expert" columnist makes a trend. I remember Tim Duncan was considered the first pick and I don't remember a time when he wouldn't have been the first pick.
Plus...in this very column, Bill states the following:
The Karma Gods didn't like how Boston unapologetically tanked, losing 34
of its last 38 to secure the best Duncan odds. San Antonio went 6-16
over its last 22 and at least pretended to give a crap.
So the Celtics were apparently very, very sure that Duncan was the #1 overall pick if Bill thinks they tanked to get Duncan, but Bill also wants us to believe (based on one column written in "The New York Times" AFTER the 1997 draft occurred in a piece on Van Horn) some experts thought Van Horn could be the #1 overall pick.
Longtime Spurs media guy Tom James reminded me of this recently — he
said their local newspaper polled San Antonians before the draft and 30
percent of the fans wanted Van Horn. To be fair, his stock was much
higher than everyone remembers now and there was a whiff of "The Next
Bird" buzz that everyone has blocked out of their mind now. Check out this New York Times story from January 1998 — they make it seem like "Duncan or Van Horn?" was still an argument!
What's even crazier about this article is it was written in January 1998, which is a full six months after Duncan was selected as the #1 pick. So "The New York Times" must have been really behind the times if they think there was still a "Duncan or Van Horn?" argument a full six months after the draft had occurred and Duncan was taken #1 overall. Nowhere in this article does it make it seem like Van Horn would have been the #1 overall pick, plus the article is written after the draft. I'm not entirely sure why Bill linked it.
Our first Duncan-Robinson feature
(November '97) includes a halfhearted attempt to give them a nickname
(either "Officer and a Gentleman" or "Twin Peaks") before the writer
abruptly gives up, and also includes the revelation that Duncan
"collects everything from switchblades to samurai swords because, he
says, 'I just like sharp things.'" He just likes sharp things???? Can we retroactively start calling him "Dexter"?
Oh, it feels forced. If this joke were a woman and Bill forced his way into it like this, he could be accused of sexual assault. "No" means "no," Bill. You can't force a joke that doesn't want to be made.
Okay, I'm going to staring including Bill's "The Duncan Show: Season 1, 2, 3" crap because otherwise what he writes doesn't make sense. I'm including my comments earlier in this column on this subject to let you all know that I am not happy about it though.
THE DUNCAN SHOW, SEASON 1: 1997-98
Against Utah (their 1990s nemesis) in Round 2, they blew Game 1 and Game
2 by a total of four points, never recovering as Robinson's playoff
choke-a-rama continued (42.5% FG). Also not helping: Duncan wasn't quite
Duncan yet (nine playoff games: 20.7 PPG, 9.0 RPG), and Karl Malone had
mastered Rounds 1 and 2 at this point (26.3 PPG, 11.3 RPG in Utah's
four wins). That wasn't a compliment.
Sort of like how Kevin Garnett mastered Round 1 of the playoffs before he was joined on the Celtics team by two other Hall of Famers? Funny how two other Hall of Famers can help Garnett push his team all the way through to the NBA Finals isn't it?
THE DUNCAN SHOW, SEASON 2: 1998-99
Secretly Fascinating In-Season Story Line: "Can Robinson accept
taking a backseat to Duncan?" As Duncan's MVP candidacy gained steam (he
finished third), Robinson's numbers dropped to 15.8 PPG and 10 RPG (and
just 10.8 shots per game). We even had the requisite April '99 SI feature with the semi-insulting headline "Rear Admiral"; the piece includes details on Pop reinventing Robinson's role as a rebounder/shot blocker,
It doesn't sound like this in-season storyline was really secretly fascinating since it was clear on the floor and in the media that Duncan was the superior player. There was a "Sports Illustrated" article about how Robinson is taking a backseat to Duncan, so this storyline isn't a secret.
We would remember that league-wide butt kick more favorably if the
lockout season hadn't been such a car crash. The Spurs held opponents to
a 40.2 FG percentage (lowest since the '72 Bucks); swept two talented
Blazers and Lakers teams;
That '99 Lakers team had Shaq in his prime, Kobe in Year 3 (20 PPG),
Glen Rice, Robert Horry, Derek Fisher and Rick Fox — remember, they won
the title a year later.
Bill explained part of the reason the Spurs weren't found to be a riveting team is they haven't had an NBA Finals opponent that was overly exciting. I would think the Spurs could be somewhat riveting based on beating the '99 Lakers, but possibly not. I recall that series got a bit of publicity since it was Shaq and Kobe together in the playoffs. Perhaps I am misremembering.
won the title in MSG (first time an opponent ever did that); and held
the Knicks to 77, 67, 89, 89 and 77 points in those five Finals games
(getting a break with Patrick Ewing sitting, but still).
"Getting a break with Ewing sitting"? But what about The Ewing Theory? Isn't Bill's initial popularity to be partly attributed to the Ewing Theory, that the Knicks are a better team because their best player was sitting out? Bill has made his career off this theory, even though it is bullshit, so I can't see how Ewing being injured was anything but a break for the Knicks. Come on Bill, you created the Ewing Theory and now act like it's not a fact-based theory.
Remember, San Antonio doesn't have a major college presence or any other
professional teams. Everything revolves around the Spurs. Beating NEW
YORK CITY for the title was a monumental "We've arrived!" moment for
Plus the Spurs had won the NBA Title, which is always a big deal no matter who a team beats to win the NBA Title. But I'm sure Spurs fans were much more excited about beating NEW YORK CITY for the title than they were about the actual NBA Title itself.
followed by everyone shitting on it because the lockout season sucked.
And you wonder why Spurs fans have such a gigantic chip on their
I found this out the hard way after my "NBA Footnote Titles" column last spring.
In defense of these Spurs fans, they were probably more offended by the overall shittiness of that "NBA Footnote Titles" column. That was probably one of the worst and most trolling columns Bill has put out over the last decade and that's saying something considering Bill's recent column output. It's like Bill said, "I feel like I'm losing popularity, but I am still popular...how would I go about getting the most attention and creating a debate? I know, I will shit on the NBA Titles of multiple teams. That should get me some attention!"
And don't sleep on Patrick Ewing missing the Finals; suddenly you had
"An Officer and a Gentleman" (see how bad that was?) lighting up the
likes of Chris Dudley and Kurt Thomas. You can't blame the '99 Spurs for
any of this. Wrong place, wrong time.
Only Bill Simmons could write about a theory called "The Ewing Theory," work hard to make it seem like this theory is fact, and then use Ewing missing the NBA Finals as a reason the Knicks lost that Finals series. It's like subconsciously Bill wants us to know his columns and theories are pure horseshit, but his diehard Simmonsites just won't hear of it. They think he's super-swell and will defend him until the very bitter end.
THE DUNCAN SHOW, SEASON 3: 1999-2000
So much for "An Officer and a Gentleman."
I still love this movie even though it was revealed years later that
Debra Winger hated Richard Gere so much that she actually cried during
their love scenes. Watch for this if you ever watch the movie. It's
really disorienting. Regardless, I have Gere vs. Gossett as one of the
10 best unexpected movie fights — it might even be no. 2 behind Roddy
Piper and Keith David in They Live on my all-time list. Need to think about it more. Feel free to e-mail me any suggestions.
Even while writing a column Bill is soliciting ideas for his next mailbag. He's not out of column ideas, not at all. We will get two weeks of Bill Simmons columns 5-6 years old and then he will do a mega-mailbag where his lemming readers have emailed him more suggestions for the best unexpected movie fights. What's worse about Bill isn't the fact he mails it in frequently, but that his column ideas are becoming very, very predictable and unoriginal.
Wait, Here's a Wildly Underrated NBA What-If: What if Duncan had signed with Orlando to play with a soon-to-be-chronically-injured Grant Hill and nobody else?
He could have turned into the Florida version of KG in Minnesota,
right? And who'd have won the 2003 title if Duncan was stuck in Orlando?
What if the Magic had signed T-Mac instead of Hill and then T-Mac and Duncan played together? What would happen then? Kevin Garnett would still be the KG of Minnesota and...
You know what, I can't even do it. I hate "what if" situations because they are so incredibly pointless. What if the Spurs had decided to sign Jason Kidd instead of believing in Tony Parker? What if the Celtics had gotten the #1 overall pick in 2007, would Bill still be whining about the Celtics bad luck in drafting Greg Oden? It doesn't matter, it didn't happen. Don't manipulate the past with these stupid "what if" situations.
THE DUNCAN SHOW, SEASON 4: 2000-01
Enduring Big-Picture Story Line: "Should Duncan have fled San Antonio when he had the chance?" Put it this way: That summer, I wrote a column handing out Boogie Nights quotes to all the winners and losers from free agency.
Bill just reviewed that he was correct about Derek Anderson getting overpaid in this offseason, so let's review what he wrote about Tim Duncan, remembering that Bill just told us in 2013 it would have been a disaster for Duncan to have gone to Orlando. Let's see what Bill wrote in 2001:
Deep down, you know Duncan is kicking himself for staying in San Antonio
for three more years. It's not like David Robinson is going to do
better against Shaq next season. And it's not like the Derek
Anderson-Steve Smith exchange will help the team's chances of defending
Kobe Bryant next
season. Orlando must be look pretttttttttty good right about now.
Yes it does, Bill, yes it does. Hindsight is a great thing isn't it?
Let's look at another one of Bill's awards from this older column. His comments on the Jason Kidd trade to New Jersey:
To the Suns. You knew they would shake things up, but did they really
have to exile J-Kidd to New Jersey? Shouldn't there be an NBA rule that
reads, "Any point guard who can run a fast break and actually cares
about getting his teammates involved should not be allowed to play for a crappy team that's off the radar map?"
The very next season after Kidd got traded the Nets made the first of back-to-back NBA Finals. So much for "The Sports Guy" knowing his NBA stuff back in the early 2000's I guess. That crappy Nets team was pretty good very shortly after Bill wrote this sentence.
I'd love to go back through Bill's old archives and point out all of the times he has been wrong, but that feels cheap to me. He does revel in telling us when he is right, so maybe it isn't that cheap. Either way, Bill missed big on Duncan wishing he were in Orlando and with his opinion on the trade that brought Jason Kidd to the Nets.
THE DUNCAN SHOW, SEASON 5: 2001-02
Retroactively Fascinating Story Line: For all the fuss about San Antonio's shrewd front office (mostly deserved), Popovich and GM R.C. Buford never helped Duncan until the summer of 2001.
I'm entirely unsure why Bill has put "helped" in italics. Bill loves using italics, so maybe that's the reason. This was Duncan's fifth year in the NBA and he had a Hall of Fame center starting beside him during those years along with an NBA Title. I'm not sure how much more help the Spurs felt was necessary. It's not like they could just go find someone anytime they wanted through free agency who could guard Shaq or Kobe .
And they snared Parker 28th a few picks after Boston stupidly changed its mind, picking Joe Forte as Parker was holding a Celtics hat and expecting they'd take him. Hey, at least there's not video of him telling me this story as I try to figure out how to impale myself.
Bill does realize that if the Celtics had drafted Tony Parker then they could not have drafted the best point guard alive, right?
Only Bill Simmons could feel tortured about the fact the Celtics didn't take Tony Parker while also calling the Celtics current point guard the best point guard alive. He has to have it both ways of course. He has to brag about the Celtics current point guard while also complaining about a point guard the Celtics missed out on drafting.
In Game 5, Duncan responded with an outrageous 34-25 effort, to no
avail. But for everyone who says the Spurs are boring … um … why were
they involved in so many entertaining games?
Who would ever say the Spurs are boring or would indicate the Spurs weren't involved in many entertaining games? Um...Bill would. From earlier in this column:
Their biggest issue wasn't their fault: Until this month, they never
found the right Finals opponent, someone who brought out the best in
them and produced riveting basketball.
Perhaps "riveting" and "entertaining" are two different adjectives, but it seems to me like Bill calls the Spurs' playoff series not riveting and then states the Spurs were involved in "many" entertaining playoff games. Arguing semantics is a losing battle, but this seems like somewhat of a contradiction from Bill, which shouldn't shock me. He likes to have it both ways.
THE DUNCAN SHOW, SEASON 6: 2002-03
Record: 60-22 (best record in the NBA)
Playoffs: Won title, beat Nets in Finals (in 6)
The Spurs beat that crappy Nets team with Jason Kidd?
(3) they killed off the Lakers in Round 2 with a 110-82 Game 6 blowout in Los Angeles (featuring a 37-16 for Duncan)
Before Game 6, I predicted on ESPN.com that "Game 6 will be more rigged than the Andre the Giant–Hulk Hogan match in WrestleMania III"
and wondered, "The Spurs showed me just enough fear and hesitation down
the stretch of Game 5 that it makes you wonder … are they ready to beat
the Lakers in a seven-game series? Just doesn't seem like it. LA IN 7."
Don't forget — I've ALWAYS been bad at this. It's not just a recent
I can handle some modesty coming from Bill, but it's false modesty in my opinion. This is a guy who named a book he wrote "The Book of Basketball," has openly campaigned for at least two open NBA GM positions, he hosts the ABC/ESPN NBA Pregame show and has nominated himself as the VP of Common Sense. Considering during the last decade Bill claims to have written the book on basketball, believes he can be an NBA General Manager, and thinks he is the king of common sense moves, it is hard to take his modesty too seriously.
Combined, the Nets and Spurs couldn't average 170 points a game (169.8,
to be exact). New Jersey shot 37 percent and failed to break 90 points
even once. Kenyon Martin's Game 6 summed everything up — he went
3-for-23, coming within one made field goal of being named 2003 Finals
MVP. (I couldn't resist.)
You couldn't resist failing to accurately subtract 6 minus 1? Three field goals plus one more made field goal is four field goals. Kobe went 6 for 24 in the NBA Finals against Boston when he was named MVP. 3 plus 1 does not equal 6. I guess that expensive Holy Cross education didn't include math classes.
And seriously, the "6 for 24" joke was old the first time Bill made it. He wouldn't have to worry about his own terrible math skills if he just stopped making this joke.
They ended up having one of the most acrimonious divorces in sports
history. Welcome to another fantastic Spurs-related "What If?" — What if Kidd had signed with the Spurs? Could Kidd and Parker have coexisted? (I say yes.)
My question is why would Parker have wanted to co-exist with Kidd when he could go to another NBA team and be the star? Plus even if Parker stayed with the Spurs, I'm not sure I'm sold on Manu Ginobili, Kidd, and Parker guarding the guard and small forward positions down the stretch of a game. I could be wrong, but that would have pushed Bruce Bowen either out of the game or to the power forward spot.
THE DUNCAN SHOW, SEASON 7: 2003-04
Retroactively Perplexing Story Line: It's time for another
shocking misfire from San Antonio's much-ballyhooed brain trust! Blessed
with gobs of cap space thanks to the Kerr and Robinson retirements, as
well as the league's back-to-back MVP (re-signed for $122 million), San
Antonio's big free-agent "splurge" ended up being Rasho Nesterovic for …
(Hold on, you're not gonna believe this … )
This contract amount isn't a huge secret. I remember how much the Spurs paid for Nesterovic.
(Seriously, you should sit down and take a deep breath … )
Seriously, I remember. This isn't data only you are capable of finding.
FORTY-FIVE MILLION DOLLARS over six years!!!!
This was not a good contract in retrospect, but at the time Nesterovic was coming off a season where he put up 11.2 ppg, 1.5 bpg, 6.5 rpg, and was playing 30 minutes per game for the T-Wolves. He was 27 years old and had improved pretty much every season in the NBA to that point as well. You can sort of see the draw the Spurs had to Nesterovic. They needed a center and he looked pretty competent, plus they had cap room. Cap room isn't always a good thing I guess.
If Popovich and R.C. Buford were Matt Damon's IMDb page, the Nesterovic signing would be The Legend of Bagger Vance.
If sports were like pop culture this would be true. Sports are not like pop culture no matter how hard Bill tries to convince us all they are.
Even better, the Lakers traded Shaq to Miami, officially blowing up a
team that should have owned that decade. Fisher's shot may have been
unlucky for San Antonio, but the Shaqobe Era's implosion made up for it.
And then some.
Shaq was sort of on his way down once he got traded to Miami. I don't think that was a terrible move for the Lakers. Rather than ride an aging Shaq for four or five more years they got to semi-start over with Pau Gasol a few years down the road. Maybe the Lakers can make that Gasol trade if they still have Shaq on the roster, but ask Cleveland and Phoenix about how riding an aging Shaq works out.
Click here for Part 2.
I had to break this into two columns just to give everyone's eyes a rest. A two-part column. Will Bill Simmons ever write an original column after this? We already know he has a mailbag coming where his readers list the best unexpected fights in history. Sounds unexciting doesn't it? Part 2 coming tomorrow.