Skip to main content

Tim Duncan: The Biography Of The Big Fundamental

Tim Duncan: The Biography Of The Big Fundamental

NBA fans, old and young, know who Tim Duncan is. They remember the quiet, humble player known for his precise bank shot. Most also know that he was known as “The Big Fundamental”, but do fans know who Tim Duncan really is?

Tim Duncan has a unique story, from his childhood to him raising his fifth NBA title in 2014. Let's dive deep into Duncan's childhood and learn where his first love of sports was developed in the... water.

Little Timmy Duncan

Timothy Theodore Duncan was born in Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands on April 25, 1976. Duncan's parents were William and Ione Duncan. William worked as a mason, and Ione was a midwife.

Duncan has two older sisters and an older brother. His sisters, Cheryl and Tricia, were both great swimmers. Cheryl was a champion swimmer and Tricia swam for the U.S. Virgin Islands at the 1988 Summer Olympics, which were held in Seoul.

Duncan's brother, Scott, is a film director and cinematographer. He's worked on numerous projects, including projects for ESPN, Fox Sports, NBC Sports, and Nickelodeon, to name a few.

When Duncan was a child, he wanted to be like his sisters, so he learned how to swim and became quite good at it. In fact, as a teenager, Duncan became a standout swimmer in his high school with dreams of swimming in the 1992 Olympic Games.

These Olympic swimming dreams wouldn't come true for Duncan. The reason for this is that of a hurricane in 1989, which destroyed the only Olympic-sized pool in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

After the pool was destroyed, Duncan tried to swim in the ocean. This didn't last long because of his fear of sharks, and he quickly changed his mind about becoming an Olympic swimmer.

So, with the pool destroyed, and a healthy fear of sharks, Duncan turned his attention to another sport... Basketball.

Tim Duncan Becomes A Basketball Player

Tim Duncan suffered a tragedy shortly before his 14th birthday. His mother passed away from breast cancer. Before she passed, Ione Duncan made Duncan promise to go to college and graduate.

Duncan agreed to fulfill his mother's wishes, but he quickly fell into a depressed state after her death. It would take his brother-in-law introducing him to the game of basketball to finally break him out of his depression.

Now, Duncan wasn't a star at basketball when he first started playing. He actually wasn't very good at all. Duncan was awkward on the court, but he kept at it, and eventually, he found his rhythm.

Duncan would go on to play for St. Dunstan's Episcopal High School and this is where people started to notice his skills as a basketball player. As a senior, Duncan averaged 25 points per game, which helped to gain him attention from a few colleges.

One of the main colleges to take real notice in Duncan was Wake Forest University. The reason for this was because of a pickup game that former player for Wake Forest, Chris King, witnessed.

It was 1992 and King's agent, Bob Kingsley, sent King and a few of his NBA clients to the U.S. Virgin Islands to help raise money and awareness to combat a recent spell of elevated violence.

One of the NBA players was star center, Alonzo Mourning. There would be a game of pickup basketball played and matched up against Mourning was a skinny 16-year-old Tim Duncan.

According to Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post, King said in an interview that Duncan immediately caught a pass on the block with Mourning guarding him. Duncan quickly turned and took a shot he'd become famous for; a bank shot. Duncan made the shot and apparently from that moment on, Duncan dominated Mourning.

“You could see he was a little raw, but you could see he had the touch,” King said. “When I saw him doing that on the low block, it was like, wow, jump hook. Fade. This one play, I’ll never forget. Alonzo tried to go up. Tim blocked the shot, and he ran the floor like a deer. Someone threw it to him, and he dunked all over Alonzo.”

King continued to praise the young teenager from the U.S. Virgin Islands by saying;

“He’s playing against Alonzo Mourning. He’s 16. He’s dominating this guy. He’s running the floor. He has these great hands. I was like, oh my god, this kid can play!”

After the charity event in the U.S. Virgin Islands, King returned to Wake Forest to work out. There, head coach Dave Odom, asked King if he saw any good players in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

King explained to Odom about the skinny, tall kid who dominated a star NBA player. A short time later, Duncan was offered a scholarship.

Tim Duncan: College Star

Tim Duncan's college career started slowly, including a scoreless first game. He eventually found his rhythm, finishing his freshman year with averages of 9.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 3.8 blocks per game.

Duncan's Wake Forest team finished with a 21-12 record in his freshman year, but they would improve to a 26-6 record in Duncan's sophomore and junior years. Duncan's averages went up as well, to 16.8 points in his sophomore year and 19.1 in his junior year.

As a junior, Duncan led Wake Forest to the ACC Men's Basketball Tournament Championship. This was the school's third ACC title.

This great play by Duncan placed him amount the top prospects eligible for the NBA. Duncan refused to leave school early to enter the NBA Draft because of the promise he made to his mother. He wanted to graduate, and he returned to Wake as a senior.

Duncan averaged 20.8 points, 14.7 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per game as a senior, leading Wake Forest to a 24-7 record. As a senior, Duncan led Wake Forest to its second straight ACC championship.

Duncan was named the MVP of the ACC tournament and his draft stock rose to new levels. His impressive college resume included these achievements:

- 1995 East Regional Team

- 1995 NABC Defensive Player of the Year

- 1996 Midwest Regional Team

- 1996 ACC Player of the Year

- 1996 NABC Defensive Player of the Year

- 1996 consensus First Team All-American

- 1997 ACC Player of the Year

- 1997 NABC Defensive Player of the Year

- 1997 consensus First Team All-American

- 1997 consensus National Player of the Year

Duncan graduated college with a degree in psychology. He fulfilled his mother's dying wish and his next step was entering the NBA Draft.

Tim Duncan: Rookie Of The Year

The San Antonio Spurs held the first pick in the 1997 NBA Draft thanks to an injury-riddled 1996-97 season. They chose Tim Duncan with their pick, and the rest would be history.

Duncan made his presence felt right away in the NBA, and on the Spurs. As a rookie, Duncan averaged 21.1 points per game, which was second on the team behind David Robinson's 21.6. Duncan led the Spurs in rebounds per game with 11.9.

There was no surprise when Duncan was named the Rookie of the Year in the 1997-98 season, but what did come as a surprise was when Duncan admitted he wasn't “impressed” by the G.O.A.T., Michael Jordan. In an interview with Dan Patrick in 1998, Duncan had this to say about “His Airness”:

“I’ve always respected him but I’ve never been a fan of his,” Duncan said.

Patrick replied to Duncan by asking, “So you don't like Michael Jordan cause everybody else does?”

Duncan promptly answered Patrick's question by stating, “No, I don’t like Michael Jordan because I don’t like Michael Jordan. You got me wrong there. I respect Michael Jordan.”

This was a bold claim by a rookie on the most popular athlete in the world. Despite Duncan's feelings about Jordan, he'd quickly follow the G.O.A.T. in one category... NBA champion.

NBA Finals MVP And Champion: Tim Duncan

Rookie Tim Duncan led the San Antonio Spurs to a 56-26 record during the 1997-98 season. This was good enough to get the Spurs the fifth seed in the Western Conference.

The Spurs would defeat the Phoenix Suns 3-1 in the first round but would lose to the eventual Western Conference champion, Utah Jazz, 4-1 in the semifinals.

The following season, the NBA saw a lockout, which would shorten the season to 50 games. The Spurs went on to record a 37-13 record, which was tied for the best record in the league with the Utah Jazz.

The Spurs held the tiebreaker with the Jazz, so they entered the playoffs as the number one seed. In the playoffs, the Spurs steamed rolled through everyone in the Western Conference to reach their first NBA Finals.

The Spurs matched up against the surprising eighth-seeded New York Knicks in the NBA Finals. The Knicks tormented the teams in the Eastern Conference, but they would be no problem for Duncan's Spurs.

The Spurs went 15-2 in the playoffs, including 4-1 in the Finals against the Knicks, to win their first title. Duncan was named the Finals MVP with averages of 27.4 points, 14.0 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game.

It only took Duncan two years before he became an NBA champion. Spurs fans rejoiced over their new star player and they couldn't wait to see how many other championships he'd deliver to the city home to the Alamo.

Tim Duncan: Multiple NBA Champion

Tim Duncan won a championship in his second season, but not everyone believed in the Spurs “lockout” title. Legendary big man, Shaquille O'Neal went on his podcast, known as “The Big Podcast”, and said this about Duncan:

“I'll tell all of San Antonio to its face. You only have four. It's an asterisk. That's what I think. I would tell Mr. Duncan to his face you have four rings. It says you have five but the asterisks don't count. In anything I do, I never want asterisks about it.”

O'Neal believes since the 1998-99 season was shortened due to a lockout, that Duncan's Spurs title shouldn't count. After the lockout season, O'Neal backed up this idea by leading his Los Angeles Lakers to three straight titles.

The 2002-03 NBA season would be the true test to see if Duncan could prove to O'Neal that he was a real champion. Since the 1999 championship, Duncan's Spurs played O'Neal's Lakers twice in the playoffs.

The Lakers got the best of the Spurs in the 2001 Western Conference Finals (4-0) and the 2002 semifinals (4-1). By the 2003 NBA playoffs, Duncan would finally get his revenge.

The Spurs dethroned the Lakers, defeating them 4-2 in the semifinals. Duncan averaged 28.0 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists in the series.

Duncan would lead the Spurs back to the NBA Finals to face the New Jersey Nets. The Spurs would win their second title after defeating the Nets 4-2.

Duncan would win his second Finals MVP with averages of 24.2 points, 17.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 5.3 blocks per game. This series solidified Duncan as a true great in NBA history.

Duncan would find himself back in the NBA Finals in 2005 against the Detroit Pistons and in 2007 against a young LeBron James. The Spurs won both titles and Duncan won his third Finals MVP in 2005.

It would take six years before we'd see Duncan back in the NBA Finals. Once again, he'd face LeBron James, but this time he was more mature and he had better teammates in Miami.

The Spurs would lose a heartbreaker in seven games, making this the first time Duncan lost an NBA Finals series. The very next year (2014), Duncan's Spurs would make it back to the Finals in a rematch against the Heat.

This time around, things would be different. The Spurs would win the series 4-1 and they would defeat the Heat by an average of 14.0 points per game, a Finals record margin of victory.

Duncan would go on to play two more years before retiring from the game. He accumulated a lot of awards in his 19-year playing career. This includes these achievements:

- 5x NBA champion

- 2x NBA MVP

- 3x Finals MVP

- 15x All-Star

- The only player in history to be selected to the All-NBA and All-Defensive Team for 13 straight seasons

- 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee

Tim Duncan: Father, Coach, And Overall “Good Guy”

Tim Duncan was married to Amy Sherrill in 2001, and they had two children together. The couple divorced in 2013, but Duncan had a third child with his girlfriend, Vanessa Macias, in 2017.

Duncan has always been big at giving back to the community and helping children. He established the Tim Duncan Foundation in 2001, which helps to fund programs that bring awareness to education, research, recreation, and youth sports to San Antonio and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Duncan also hosts golf and bowling events that raise money for charities, especially children's centers, and for cancer research. It's been said that Duncan is one of the good guys in sports, and it shows.

Duncan tried his hand at coaching in 2019 when he joined the Spurs as an assistant coach. He'd get one chance as a head coach when Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich missed a game due to a personal matter.

In Duncan's one game as a head coach, the Spurs came from behind to defeat the Charlotte Hornets by a score of 104-103. By November 2020, Duncan stepped down as assistant coach of the Spurs.

Duncan keeps a low profile, just as he did during his legendary playing career. As basketball fans, we are curious to see what the next chapter may be in the life of Tim Duncan.

Maybe a return to the swimming pool? Whatever decision Duncan makes, we know he'll be quiet, yet great at it.


Tim Duncan's Record Against The NBA's Biggest Superstars: Only Michael Jordan And Shaquille O'Neal Have A Winning Record Against The Big Fundamental

NBA MVP Award Winners From 2001 To 2010: LeBron James, Tim Duncan And Steve Nash All Won Back-To-Back Awards

Top 15 Players With The Most Double-Doubles In NBA History: Tim Duncan Is The King Of Double-Doubles

Ray Allen: The Story Of One Of The Greatest Shooters In NBA History

Penny Hardaway: One Of The NBA's Biggest What Ifs In NBA History