Since St. Croix native Tim Duncan was the first draft choice by the San Antonio Spurs in 1997, the team has won at least 60 percent of its games every season, and Sunday night they captured their fifth NBA title in San Antonio against the Miami Heat, after losing to the Florida team last year.
The championship was determined in the fifth game with a score of 104-87. The Spurs burst ahead from a16-point deficit in the first quarter. According to statistics, the Spurs covered almost a mile more on the court than the Heat and executed 106 more passes. The Spurs won games one, two and five.
By the end of the playoffs, Duncan had broken two records. He surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabaar’s all-time record for number of minutes played during the playoff games and Magic Johnson’s record for postseason double-doubles.
In game four, Duncan scored impressive “double doubles” – 10 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block and no turnovers in 31 minutes.
A “double” is scoring double digits in one of five categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots. “Double-doubles” refers to two digit totals in more than one category.
According to ESPN, during regular season play Duncan averaged 15.1 points and almost 9.7 rebounds and averaged almost 30 minutes of play per game. During the playoffs, he scored 15.4 points and 10 rebounds.
Sports writers call Duncan and teammates Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker “the winningest trio in NBA playoff history,” and Tony Luftman of CBS Sports said Duncan is “the greatest player since Michael Jordan.”
“He is already the best power forward of all time by most standards,” wrote Matt Moore, NBA writer for CBS Sports before the championship game.
“The fundamental quality of his play so reminiscent of Russell. His footwork and touch comparable to that of Shaq, while his grace strikes you like that of Chamberlain. The defense smothering, the turnaround bank shot unguardable, the passing sublime, the commitment unquestionable, the leadership unassailable, the excellence unsurpassed. For 16 years.”
Duncan, born on St. Croix to William and Ione Duncan, originally trained to be an Olympic swimmer like one of his two sisters. After Hurricane Hugo destroyed the only Olympic size swimming pool on the island, Tim Duncan turned to basketball. By the time he was a senior at St. Dunstan’s High School, several universities noticed his ability.
After scholarship offers from the University of Hartford, the University of Delaware and Providence College, Duncan chose Wake Forest and distinguished himself on the court between 1993-1997.
Duncan has played for the Spurs his entire career and excelled from the start – he was named MVP his rookie year. He is 38 years old and is expected to return to play basketball next season. He must decide by June 24 to receive a $10.3 million player option for another year.
There are many Duncan fans in the Virgin Islands, especially on St. Croix. One of the most dedicated, Christopher Finch, commissioner of Human Services and from San Antonio, said he has been following the team since the days of the “Iceman,” George Gervin, the first Spur inducted in the Hall of Fame.
Finch said he met Duncan once, when the basketball star presented cash donations to Queen Louise Home for Children, Catholic Charities in the Virgin Islands and a San Antonio children’s charity during half time at a Lakers and Spurs game. Finch was the executive director of Lutheran Social Services, the managing agency of Queen Louise Home, at the time.
The Tim Duncan Foundation was started in 2001 to fund education, youth sports, health awareness and research. Over the years, Duncan’s Caribbean Education Initiative has supported the V.I. Boxing Federation, the St. Croix Educational Complex Steel Orchestra, the V.I. Swimming Federation and the V.I. Weightlifting Federation.
After the championship game, Duncan hugged his son and daughter during interviews. Finch said he was a “great representative of fatherhood and Virgin Islands males.”
“I think he’s a great representative of the Virgin Islands. The world, by and large, knows he’s from the Virgin Islands,” Finch said.