Tim Duncan played for the San Antonio Spurs for 18 years and it was a match made in heaven. During that time, the veteran big man averaged 19 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 3 assists per game on 50.6% shooting. He also earned 15 All-Syar appearances, 2 MVPs, and 5 NBA Championships.
From the jump, Duncan was elite and the Spurs had what they needed to contend for years to come.
But things could have gone very differently for Duncan had he decided against finishing out his degree. You see, back when he was 13 years old, Duncan made a promise to his mother (who was on her deathbed) that he’d stay in school and earn his degree.
This promise inspired him not to head straight into the NBA in 1995, and he stayed in Wake Forest instead to earn his degree in Psychology.
Despite becoming a breakout high school star in St. Croix, Duncan was only offered a handful of scholarships due to worry over the strength of his competition. He signed on to attend Wake Forest, and quickly proved to be a phenom, to the point he was encouraged by some to leave school early and land that fat NBA contract. But Duncan decided to stay in school for a very personal reason: he promised his mother on her deathbed that he would get his college degree. And he did, earning a degree in psychology and even co-authoring a chapter in a psychology book during his time at Wake Forest.
This delay is actually part of the reason he ended up in San Antonio. The team didn’t have a lottery pick back then and by the time Duncan was ready to enter the league (1997), he had earned enough attention to become the number one pick that year.
He would join Robinson in San Antonio that season but would eventually be joined by Tony Parker, Mani Ginobili, and head coach Greg Popovich.
As for the rest, well, the rest is history — and today, Duncan is recognized as one of the greatest players to ever pick up a basketball.