SAN ANTONIO – Tim Duncan was on a podcast. Yes, that Tim Duncan.
The Spurs legend recently joined Logan Murdock and Raja Bell on The Ringer’s Real Ones podcast, where he discussed everything from his early days with the Spurs, head coach Gregg Popovich, his near move to Orlando and his legendary battles against the late Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett.
Duncan, who played 19 seasons and won five championships with the Spurs, said in the podcast that he had the option to come out of Wake Forest after his junior season and was told he would be a lottery pick in the 1996 draft, but wanted to finish his four-year college career.
The Spurs won the lottery the year after despite not having the best overall team odds.
“In my head, I was going to Boston. I just kind of knew it,” Duncan said. “Then it’s like ‘Holy crap, I’m not going to Boston? But I get to play with David Robinson. Are you kidding me? This is awesome.’”
“It worked out pretty great for me being with coach Pop and all those vets,” Duncan said. “I was absolutely blessed to land where I landed and it worked out for me.”
Duncan said when he arrived in San Antonio, he was asked to simply play well and not necessarily be the immediate team leader. Duncan praised Spurs veterans for helping him get adjusted and teaching him how to be a professional.
“I learned so much and grew into the player I was because of the Avery Johnsons, the Vinny Del Negros, the Sean Ellliots, David Robinson, Monty Williams,” Duncan said.
Duncan said Williams took him under his wing, but the entire group, including Malik Rose, was made up of genuinely good people who cared about basketball and the community.
Duncan said some of the highlights of his first few seasons in San Antonio were beating Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal in the 1999 playoffs and “shutting down the Forum,” and ending the Lakers 3-peat in 2003, which was the Spurs’ second championship season.
The Spurs icon said the Lakers rivalry was great at the moment and had several ups and downs, including the 0.4 shot that eliminated San Antonio in 2004.
Duncan said he had nothing but “absolute respect for Kobe” and Bryant’s competitiveness pushed the Lakers and made the Spurs bring their “A-game” every time they played.
On Kevin Garnett, Duncan said he frustrated the Minnesota Timberwolves forward simply because he wouldn’t engage in Garnett’s trash-talking antics.
“That’s what he wanted. I recognized that,” Duncan said. “It frustrates people more when you keep coming and coming and getting things done.”
He was also asked to reflect on his 2002 free agency when he nearly signed with the Orlando Magic.
Duncan said “it was pretty close on Orlando and didn’t happen because of Coach Pop and David Robinson.”
“They had the last word and an understanding that I enjoyed what I had (in San Antonio) and maybe had a little more control and certainty of where I was in rebuilding and competing in the Western Conference,” Duncan said.
Duncan also shared that his most fulfilling championship was in 2005 against Detroit due to it being an intense seven game series and the heated interior battles with Pistons big men Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace.
When it comes to Popovich, Duncan said one of his greatest traits is that he knows how to strike the proper balance between players personal lives and basketball.
“Someone who is easy to respect because he’s straight forward with you,” Duncan said. “He’ll stay on you, but keep the environment fun, but you know when it’s time to work and when to relax.”
Duncan said his father gave Popovich permission to keep him in line and it was a primary reason why a team first culture was built in San Antonio rather than it being about one player.
Duncan said he enjoyed dinners with Popovich and his endless knowledge about wine was substantiated, but coaching was not likely for him anymore in the future after his lone season as an assistant.
The Hall of Fame power forward also touched on several other subjects, including Bryant’s death, the way the game is played now, his favorite current players and the Anthony Davis comparisons.