June 16, 2003 – In the NBA there are flashier players than Tim Duncan, there are louder players for sure, players with heftier endorsement contracts, and even a few who are taller than the 7-footer.
But even if you tried, you probably wouldn't find a player more consistent than Duncan. And just in case there was any doubt, St. Croix's favorite son proved himself again Sunday night in San Antonio.
After leading the Spurs to an exciting 19-0 fourth-quarter run to defeat the New Jersey Nets 88-77 in the final game of the NBA Championships, Duncan was named the series Most Valuable Player for the second time in his career, nearly recording a rare quadruple-triple along the way.
That's right: For No. 21, it was 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, and eight (almost double-digit) rebounds.
It would be hard to say at this point which is the greater achievement: to be named the champion of a championship team in a championship series in front of a roaring hometown crowd, or to be named the NBA's greatest player, as he was at the beginning of May, for the second consecutive season. A feat, by the way, which Duncan is the first to take ownership of since Michael Jordan did it '91 and '92.
"It's an incredible feeling to do it here, to give our fans this kind of a treat," Duncan said, according to a story in Sports Illustrated online. "It's great for them and great for us."
He's come a long way from humble beginnings on the asphalt court of the now-defunct St. Dunstan's High School on St. Croix, where he played organized ball for the first time as a ninth grader. Prior to that, he'd been a competitive swimmer, but he had to trade in his first love for a hoop dream when Hurricane Hugo made a mess of the pool where he trained.
But, just look at him now. Duncan is the second player in NBA history to be named to the All-NBA and All-defensive teams in all five of his first five seasons. He has led the league in double-double's since joining it. He was named MVP of the '99 championship finals, co-MVP of the 2000 All-Star game, NBA Player of the Week 11 times, so far, and Player of the Month four times. And at the ripe old age of 27, he doesn't look as if he's going to stop dazzling us anytime soon.
To judge from his accomplishments, Duncan may be one of the precious few Virgin Islanders for whom Hugo was a blessing.
"This experience, to make it this far, to be the last team standing, to go through all the trials and tribulations we have all season long, the ups and downs — there was much to learn from this season, not only this series, but the season in general. It was a great one for these guys," Duncan told Sports Illustrated.
But beyond the glory of the court and the television cameras and the cheering fans under the lights, in a much quieter place where the rest of us live, Duncan's consistency shows itself in a different way.
You wouldn't know it from his shy, self-effacing manner, because the truly generous never speak of their own generosity, but he also is something of a philanthropist. Together with his wife, Amy, he started the Tim Duncan Foundation, which raises money for not-for-profit groups dealing with education, health awareness and research, and youth sports and recreation. The foundation supports such agencies in the three geographical areas where he has roots: the Virgin Islands, where he grew up; Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he went to college at Wake Forest; and the San Antonio area of South Texas.
In San Antonio each year the foundation sponsors a charity Bowl-a-Thon and a golf tournament which have raised more than $350,000 to help in the fight against breast and prostate cancer. It purchased a new multipurpose vehicle for the Roy Maas' Youth Alternatives organization, which serves more than 700 children in crisis and at risk in the area.
On St. Croix, the foundation donated $25,000 toward the purchase of a wooden basketball court for Central High School, the first of its kind ever installed on the island. (To read more about the foundation, visit the NBA's Tim Duncan Foundation Web page.)
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