If you want to be great, you have to beat the best. That’s exactly what Tim Duncan did with the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs were a primetime team when Duncan was on the court. When you look at his track record, there was truly only one superstar that bested him. Everybody else was no match for the king of fundamentals.
There were some great players that Duncan beat in his long career. With five championships to his name, his regular-season success was just as great. The Spurs would have been lost without the Hall of Famer and these stats can prove it.
This is Tim Duncan’s career record against 25 superstars.
Michael Jordan - 5 Games, 2-3 (40.0%)
Regular Season: 21.6 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.8 BPG, 47.6 FG%, 50.0 3-PT%, (2-3)
Technically, there are two players on this list that had a winning percentage against Duncan. With that said, the two played against each other only two times. Had Jordan stayed in the league after 1998, we would have had more data to make a more educated decision on the greatness of one another.
Instead, this small sample size does not paint a clear enough picture. If these two played the sixth game, they probably would have split the series. Duncan’s numbers are respectable as well. The two never met in the playoffs either. In 1999, the Knicks made the NBA Finals against the Spurs. Had the gang stuck together one more year, we might have seen Duncan and Jordan pitted against each other in the Finals.
Shaquille O’Neal - 62 Games, 29-33 (46.7%)
Regular Season: 22.0 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 2.7 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 45.2 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (14-18)
Playoffs: 25.6 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 3.8 APG, 0.9 SPG, 2.4 BPG, 48.5 FG%, 42.9 3-PT%, (15-15)
The one player that had Duncan’s number was Shaquille O’Neal. What makes this great is that the two were often matched up against each other in the paint. Even with O’Neal down there, Duncan still averaged a double-double in the regular season and playoffs. With the Spurs and Lakers in the same conference, there were plenty of opportunities, but it was Shaq’s Lakers that took most of the regular season games.
In the playoffs, Duncan was able to split with O’Neal. In 1999, Duncan swept the Lakers on route to winning the championships. Then, the two played against each other in the playoffs each year from 2001 to 2004. The other time Duncan beat Shaq was in 2003, another championship season.
Kevin Durant - 44 Games, 22-22 (50.0%)
Regular Season: 16.6 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.9 BPG, 48.2 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (14-12)
Playoffs: 13.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.2 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 44.1 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (8-10)
When Durant joined the SuperSonics, which was then changed to the Thunder, in 2007, Duncan still had plenty of prime seasons left. The Thunder and Spurs were a good matchup, especially since both teams had a big three of their own. With Serge Ibaka on those Thunder teams, it limited Duncan to not averaging a double-double.
We can’t forget that Durant was an underrated defender himself. With both Ibaka and Durant, it made grabbing rebounds hard. The Thunder eliminated the Spurs in 2012 on their way to the NBA Finals, as well in 2016 when the team nearly made it back. The Spurs eliminated the Thunder in 2014 on their way to winning a title.
Russell Westbrook - 43 Games, 22-21 (51.1%)
Regular Season: 15.8 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.4 SPG, 2.0 BPG, 48.0 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (14-11)
Playoffs: 13.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.2 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 44.1 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (8-10)
Westbrook played one less game than Durant, so Duncan was able to snag an overall positive winning percentage against Durant’s Thunder teammate. For similar reasons listed above, Duncan was unable to average a triple-double. Had Westbrook played in the other game with Durant, he would own the same winning percentage as him.
The playoff stats are replicants of Durant’s. When Durant left to join the Warriors, Duncan was done playing basketball because he retired. Both times the Thunder eliminated the Spurs the series stretched to six games.
Kobe Bryant - 82 Games, 43-39 (52.4%)
Regular Season: 18.5 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 3.2 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1.8 BPG, 45.4 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (31-21)
Playoffs: 25.2 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 4.2 APG, 0.9 APG, 2.3 BPG, 47.3 FG%, 25.0 3-PT%, (12-18)
Unlike Shaq, Bryant was unable to get the best of Duncan. When Shaq left, it certainly left open a void in the middle. When you look at the centers that played that spot, you had Andrew Bynum and then Pau Gasol at the forward position. While Gasol is a Hall of Famer in his own right, Duncan was no match for Bynum, so it’s no surprise to see that Duncan’s Spurs get the best of the Lakers.
The playoffs were a different story. Bryant played Duncan with Shaq during those years previously listed. Bryant also played Duncan in the playoffs after the Shaq years. That included a five-game series loss in 2008 when the Lakers made the NBA Finals. The team played again in 2013 when the Lakers had Steve Nash and Dwight Howard on the team, where the Spurs swept the Lakers in four games.
Ray Allen - 45 Games, 24-21 (53.3%)
Regular Season: 19.7 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 2.7 APG, 0.9 SPG, 2.3 BPG, 49.5 FG%, 20.0 3-PT%, (13-14)
Playoffs: 20.0 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.6 SPG, 1.6 BPG, 49.2 FG%, 33.3 3-PT%, (11-7)
Ray Allen had no business matching up with Duncan in the paint. The former all-time three-point leader had the shot to sink the Spurs if necessary. With that said, Allen’s teams were no match to stop him in the middle. From the Bucks to the SuperSonics to the Celtics and Heat, Allen put up a strong fight in the regular season against the Spurs with his numbers.
The playoffs saw Allen play Duncan once when he was in Seattle, which was a five-game series loss. The two met in the NBA Finals in 2013 and 2014. It was Allen’s three-pointer in Game 6 that denied Duncan his sixth NBA championship. In 2014, Duncan got his revenge by sinking the Heat in five games.
Jason Kidd - 64 Games, 35-29 (54.6%)
Regular Season: 20.3 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.0 BPG, 48.3 FG%, 33.3 3-PT%, (23-20)
Playoffs: 20.7 PPG, 11.3 RPG< 3.6 APG, 0.7 SPG, 2.8 BPG, 51.6 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (12-9)
Tony Parker didn’t break into the league until 2001, which was about after Kidd’s tenure with the Suns. It could have made one great rivalry if Kidd stayed in Phoenix. Instead, Kidd joined the Nets and then made it back to the Mavericks, but he was past his prime during those Dallas years. Still, Kidd’s teams always gave the Spurs a fight.
The playoffs were a similar story, but Duncan has the ultimate one up. The Spurs and Nets met in the 2003 NBA Finals. It was the second straight year that Kidd had led the Nets to the NBA Finals. However, Duncan won his second championship. The series was tied 2-2 before the Spurs won three straight and Duncan won Finals MVP.
Karl Malone - 36 Games, 20-16 (55.5%)
Regular Season: 25.2 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.6 SPG, 3.0 BPG, 52.8 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (17-8)
Playoffs: 20.8 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.6 BPG, 48.2 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (3-8)
Luckily for Duncan, he played Malone enough times in the regular season to bump up his winning percentage. Duncan’s stat line for the regular season is pretty incredible when you think about it. Malone was a phenomenal scorer and Duncan averaged 3.0 blocks during those teams.
In the playoffs, Duncan owns an underwhelming 3-8 record. Duncan beat Malone just three times. That includes a five-game series loss in 1998 when Duncan was younger and Malone made the NBA Finals with the Jazz. Then, Malone joined the Lakers and helped the Lakers beat the Spurs in the 2004 semifinals, on route to making the NBA Finals themselves.
Amar’e Stoudemire - 55 Games, 31-24 (56.3%)
Regular Season: 20.3 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 3.7 APG, 0.6 SPG, 2.4 BPG, 53.1 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (16-14)
Playoffs: 23.8 PPG, 13.8 RPG< 3.0 APG, 0.6 SPG, 2.9 BPG, 53.5 FG%, 33.3 3-PT%, (15-10)
When Stoudemire played for the Suns, there were some epic rivalries in the playoffs. The regular season speaks for itself as Duncan won just enough games to make himself a winner. However, the Spurs denied Steve Nash and Stoudemire a championship ring with the Suns because it always took going through San Antonio to make a run to the NBA Finals.
The Spurs beat the Suns in the first round during Stoudemire’s rookie season. In 2005, the Spurs won the title by defeating the Suns in the Conference Finals in seven games. The Spurs beat the Suns in the second round of the 2007 playoffs, another championship season for San Antonio. They beat the Suns in the first round of the 2008 playoffs.
James Harden - 26 Games, 15-11 (57.6%)
Regular Season: 14.9 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.6 SPG, 2.1 BPG, 49.2 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (13-7)
Playoffs: 17.0 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.7 APG, 0.3 SPG, 2.3 BPG, 44.0 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (2-4)
Harden was a part of the early Thunder team that made the playoffs. The series in 2012 went six games and the Spurs came up short as the young crew of Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, and Harden made the NBA Finals before losing to the Heat. After Harden left the Thunder, it set up some interesting games when he joined the Rockets.
The battle for the top dog in Texas belonged to Duncan while he remained in the league. Duncan found a way to take care of the Rockets from 2013 to 2016, winning two games to everyone for Harden. That was with the Rockets having some decent size in the middle with Dwight Howard as well.
LeBron James - 36 Games, 21-15 (58.3%)
Regular Season: 18.3 PPG, 9.4 RRPG, 2.8 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1.8 BPG, 51.1 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (10-10)
Playoffs: 17.6 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 49.5 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (11-5)
One could make a valid argument that LeBron learned a lot about losing in the NBA because of Duncan and the Spurs. For starters, the regular season was always a battle. James couldn’t beat Duncan in the regular season more than half of the time. The playoffs also saw James come up short against Duncan two times.
The first time was when James led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in 2007. In his fourth season, James took an undermanned group and led them all the way to get swept by San Antonio. James beat Duncan in 2013 to claim a Finals MVP, but Duncan then got the best of him again in 2014.
Rasheed Wallace - 49 Games, 29-20 (59.1%)
Regular Season: 19.0 PPG, 12.2 RPG, 2.9 APG, 0.7 SPG, 2.1 BPG, 45.7 FG%, 18.2 3-PT%, (21-17)
Playoffs: 19.2 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.4 SPG, 2.6 BPG, 44.6 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (8-3)
If you look at this comparison, Duncan nearly averaged the same stat line in the regular season and playoffs when he played Wallace. That consistently probably explains why he beat him nearly 60% of the time.
The two met in the playoffs two times. In 1999, Duncan helped the Spurs sweep the Trail Blazers in the Conference Finals to make the NBA Finals. The other time had championship implications in the 2005 NBA Finals. The Spurs went the whole seven games before taking the series.
Dwight Howard - 32 Games, 19-13 (59.3%)
Regular Season: 17.3 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.1 BPG, 51.6 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (15-13)
Playoffs: 17.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 51.7 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (4-0)
In the regular season, Duncan had a matchup nightmare with Howard. Each time the Spurs played the Magic, it was going to be a competitive game. You had the greatest fundamental machine in Duncan, who was a 15-time All-Defensive player. On the other side, you had a three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
Somehow, Duncan averaged a double-double against Howard. That says more about his greatness as a player because Howard was a rebounding machine. On top of that, Duncan came out with a better winning record. In the playoffs, the Spurs swept the Lakers in four games in Howard’s one season.
Chris Bosh - 30 Games 18-12 (60.0%)
Regular Season: 19.8 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 0.6 SPG, 1.7 BPG, 55.4 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (11-7)
Playoffs: 17.4 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 51.6 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (7-5)
Both came into the league with the Raptors where he was the best scorer and rebounder in team history by the time he left. The regular-season record against Bosh isn’t bad, nor great. It was enough to get the job done. The two met in the playoffs in the NBA Finals in 2013 and 2014.
Those teams saw Bosh as the primary big in the middle. Bosh was a power forward that had to battle against Duncan. It was Bosh in Game 6 that secured the offensive rebound in the dwindling minutes to swat out a pass to Ray Allen for the game-tying three-pointer to send it to overtime. Duncan then denied Bosh his third title with his 2014 championship win.
Gary Payton - 43 Games, 26-17 (60.4%)
Regular Season: 22.4 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 2.9 APG, 0.7 SPG, 2.3 BPG, 53.6 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (21-12)
Playoffs: 22.7 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 4.2 APG, 0.7 SPG, 3.3 BPG, 48.4 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (5-5)
When you watch the Boston Celtics today, 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart is often mentioned in comparison to Payton for his ability to guard all positions. Payton could guard anybody. Even with that said, Duncan put up 22 and 11 on most nights when playing the SuperSonics.
The playoffs saw the two split their matches. Duncan still put up a line that was reflective of his regular-season totals. In the end, these were two great defensive players that played the game well. This would be one of the few times you would want to watch a guard and forward matchup.
Chris Paul - 55 Games, 34-21 (61.8%)
Regular Season: 15.9 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.8 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 50.6 FG%, 100.0 3-PT%, (23-14)
Playoffs: 17.6 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.5 BPG, 52.6 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (11-7)
Paul came into the league in 2005, which was when Duncan had won his third championship. Paul was in the league for two seasons and watched Duncan win his fourth title in 2007. The following year, Paul led New Orleans to one of its best seasons ever. That season was crushed in the semifinals as the Spurs bested Paul in seven games.
When Paul joined the Clippers, it was Duncan that crushed his dreams again with a four-game sweep in the 2012 semifinals. However, Paul got the last laugh in 2015 when the Clippers eliminated the Spurs in seven games in the first round of the playoffs.
Steve Nash - 83 Games, 52-31 (62.6%)
Regular Season: 23.3 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.0 BPG, 54.1 FG%, 28.6 3-PT%, (27-19)
Playoffs: 24.9 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.9 BPG, 53.3 FG%, 20.0 3-PT%, (25-12)
As previously mentioned, the Suns and Spurs had some great battles. Stoudemire was a part of those great Suns teams, but it was Nash that was the floor general. In 2005, you had two of the best players pitted against each other. Duncan won Finals MVP, while Nash was the regular season MVP. These two were so great that they nearly played the same amount of times in the regular season and playoffs.
On top of the times that Nash fell to Duncan while with the Suns, he also fell to him in the playoffs with the Mavericks. It was Duncan and the Spurs that eliminated the Mavericks in the first round in 2001 and then the Conference Finals in 2003.
Kevin Garnett - 52 Games, 33-19 (63.4%)
Regular Season: 19.0 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 3.2 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.9 BPG, 45.9 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (27-17)
Playoffs: 20.6 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 3.4 APG, 0.9 SPG, 2.5 BPG, 46.3 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (6-2)
When Garnett played with the Timberwolves, it set up plenty of battles. You are talking about potentially the best defenders at the position with these two players. Duncan came up short on 20 points per night but still had a double-double. His regular-season record speaks for himself, as does his playoff record where he eliminated Garnett two times.
In 1999 and 2001, the Spurs beat the Timberwolves in the first round. In 2004, the Spurs lost to the Lakers in six games in the semifinals. Had the Spurs won that series, it would have set up the Conference Finals showdown with the Timberwolves. That year, Garnett was the league MVP and that would have been one heckuva series to watch.
Allen Iverson - 29 Games, 19-10 (65.5%)
Regular Season: 21.8 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 2.7 APG, 0.6 SPG, 3.0 BPG, 50.5 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (15-9)
Playoffs: 20.2 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 5.4 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.8 BPG, 47.3 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (4-1)
Duncan stood nearly one whole foot over Iverson. Do you think that intimidated him one bit? With that said, the Spurs were superior to the 76ers with Iverson on the floor. That included the Nuggets and Pistons when Iverson joined those teams as well.
Iverson was traded to the Nuggets in the middle of the 2006-2007 season. That is where Iverson met Duncan in the playoffs for the first and only time. The Spurs won the series in five games. Duncan averaged a double-double and the rest was history.
Dwyane Wade - 29 Games, 19-10 (65.5%)
Regular Season: 18.1 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 54.7 FG%, 33.3 3-PT%, (12-5)
Playoffs: 17.4 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 51.6 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (7-5)
Having Wade play in the Western Conference would have given the fans more opportunities, but it might have meant more wins for Duncan. Wade spent his entirety with the Heat while Duncan with the Spurs. In the regular season, Duncan bested the Heat and that included when Shaq joined the Heat in the 2004 offseason.
The playoffs saw the two face off in back-to-back NBA Finals. The 2013 Finals stretched to seven games where the Heat won the title thanks to heroics from Ray Allen and LeBron James in Games 6 and 7. The following year, the Spurs made quick work of the Heat in five games.
Dirk Nowitzki - 80 Games, 53-37 (66.2%)
Regular Season: 20.2 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.9 APG, 0.6 SPG, 1.9 BPG, 50.7 FG%, 40.0 3-PT%, (35-22)
Playoffs: 24.1 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 3.1 APG, 0.7 APG, 1.9 BPG, 54.5 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (18-15)
Duncan and Nowitzki were old foes. Out of everyone on this list, Nowitzki is one of two players to have played Duncan at least 80 times. Nowitzki was able to snag 53 wins between the regular season and playoffs. On top of that, averaged a double-double and shot over 50% from the field. He even nailed a couple of three-pointers here and there too.
In all seriousness, the Spurs and Mavericks had an extra flare with both teams playing in Texas. The two players also spent their entire careers with their respective teams. From 2001 to 2014, the two teams met in the playoffs six times. Duncan lost two of those series while winning four.
Carmelo Anthony - 38 Games, 26-12 (68.4%)
Regular Season: 17.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.5 BPG, 52.0 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (18-10)
Playoffs: 21.1 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 4.4 APG, 0.4 SPG, 2.7 BPG, 47.1 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (8-2)
Anthony was an automatic bucket when on the court, but jump shots only get you so far when you don’t have the right pieces around you. When Anthony played with the Nuggets, it was Duncan that came out on top. That playoffs were no different as the Spurs eliminated the Nuggets in 2005 and 2007.
After 2007, the two saw each other for a limited time. Anthony played with the Nuggets up to his trade to the Knicks a few years down the road. The Knicks made the semifinals once. It would have been epic to see Anthony lead the Knicks to the NBA Finals to play the Spurs in 2013 to set up a rematch of the 1999 NBA Finals, but it never happened.
Paul Pierce - 30 Games, 21-9 (70.0%)
Regular Season: 17.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 2.0 SPG, 2.5 BPG, 51.4 FG%, 0-0 3-PT%, (21-9)
Most of the damage Duncan had against Pierce was before the big three. There was a time that Pierce was guiding a bad Boston team for a long time. When Duncan was winning league MVP in 2002 and 2003, the Celtics were pretty underwhelming. Duncan was able to continue his winning way up to 2007.
In 2007, the Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, which made the team substantially better. The Spurs lost to the Lakers in the Conference Finals in 2008. That could have set up an epic NBA Finals, which would have been the first-ever meeting for Pierce and Duncan.
Vince Carter - 56 Games, 42-14 (75.0%)
Regular Season: 18.3 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 3.2 APG, 0.6 SPG, 2.1 BPG, 48.4 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (34-11)
Playoffs: 13.1 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.3 SPG, 1.9 BPG, 58.4 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (8-3)
When Carter played for the Raptors, he was a budding face of the league, but it was the traditionalist Duncan that kept natural order in the world. While many loved to watch his high-flying dunks, one had to remember who was the greatest in the league. Out of 45 games, Duncan took 34 regular-season wins.
In the playoffs, it was no difference. Carter only beat Duncan 14 times out of 56 chances, which is a wild stat when you think about it. Carter was a great player. The only issue was that Duncan, and his teams, were better.
Zach Randolph - 55 Games, 44-11 (80.0%)
Regular Season: 17.5 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 3.7 APG, 0.6 SPG, 2.6 BPG, 49.6 FG%, 0.0 3-PT %, (34-7)
Playoffs: 11.5 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.6 SPG, 2.5 BPG, 48.9 FG%, 0.0 3-PT%, (10-4)
The one big in the NBA that could have done without playing Duncan was Zach Randolph. From the Trail Blazers to the Grizzlies, Randolph was a human punching bag for Duncan and the Spurs. Randolph was a gifted, physical presence in the middle too. That included the playoffs too.
In 2013, Randolph was a part of a league-leading defense with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr. The team made the Conference Finals for the first time in team history. The team’s dream season came to an end at the hands of Duncan’s Spurs, who swept the Grizzlies in four games.