On July 11, 2016, Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs announced his retirement. It came as no surprise to the professional basketball world, but it still felt surreal to me. Now if you follow me on twitter, you have probably noticed about 1 out of every 7 or 8 tweets seem to be about my love for Tim Duncan (and basketball for that matter). One of the biggest misconceptions about my obsession is that it has almost nothing to do with his greatness as a basketball player. Although he is in the top 10 for the greatest to ever pick up a basketball, his impact as a leader is far more important to me.
If I had to pick one phrase to best exemplify Tim Duncan’s leadership, it would be “true to character”. When an individual achieves a level of fame and fortune, it’s easy to let that get to your head and change who you are. But over the 19 years Tim Duncan played in the NBA, we never saw that change of character. He could have accepted the millions of dollars from endorsement offers over the years, but he knew that wasn’t him. He could have demanded more money from the San Antonio Spurs when his contracts were up, but he knew that wasn’t him.
By staying true to his character, he led by example for his teammates, coaches, and fans. His actions showed that success on and off the court was most important to him. His selflessness was contagious to those around him. He didn’t care about individual awards and accolades. He didn’t care about his statistics during games. You could see his rub off on his teammates. No one on his team cared about who took the most shots, touched the ball the most, or played the most minutes. And for a team full of grown men making millions of dollars to play basketball, that is nothing short of jaw dropping.
The Big Fundamental, as they like to call Duncan, spent his entire 19-year professional basketball career for one team and one head coach. If I were to sum that up in one word, I would say he defined loyalty. Over that long stretch, there were times where he could have gone elsewhere to make more money or move to a different part of the United States. But his loyalty to those he cared about outweighed every other factor. Surrounding yourself with great people will bring out the best in you, much like Duncan did in San Antonio.
Normally I don’t think professional athletes are the best role models out there. But Tim Duncan is someone I always have, and always will learn from. Throughout the ups and downs of your life, it’s easy to let that affect who you are. When things are going well, it’s easy to get a big head and ego. When life isn’t treating you so well, it’s easy to get bitter and angry at the world. But if you focus on staying true to character, you can look back at your life (much like Duncan can do in his retirement) and feel a sense of satisfaction and pride. There has been no better leader in professional sports to me, and I can only hope that void can be filled one day.
This article was written by Danny Grieve aka DAG aka DAG BABY DAG
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