‘No Duncan. No championships’: Popovich reflects on Spurs legend entering hall of fame

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SAN ANTONIO – Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan won five NBA championships together with the Spurs, and if you ask Popovich how many of those Duncan was responsible for, his answer is rather straightforward.

“The most concise way to put it is: no Duncan, no championships,” Popovich said.

The Spurs head coach reflected on the Spurs iconic power forward on Wednesday evening ahead of Duncan’s enshrinement into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame on May 15.

Popovich, who coached Duncan for his entire 19-year career in San Antonio, said on a “personal level, I love the guy,” when asked about his impact on him and the organization.

Popovich said despite the career accolades, Duncan was the ultimate team first player and a leader who was respected by everyone around the league and most important, his teammates.

“He set the quiet example of competing every day whether it was practice, shootaround and of course the games. He always took the lead even Manu (Ginobili) and Tony (Parker) looked toward him and he gave himself in a very humble and quiet way.

The championship teams were all kind of different. The core was there, but new guys kept coming in to round it out, and he was the guy who welcomed them all. He was the one who made them all feel comfortable and let them know what he expected of them,” Popovich said.

Duncan retired in 2016 after a prolific NBA career. He was the cornerstone of the Spurs franchise for nearly two decades and took the organization to dynastic heights. Duncan’s impact and presence is still felt throughout the entire Spurs organization.

“He led by example, even to this day, up until COVID, he was in the gym every day. It’s just how he rolls with his teammates,” Popovich said.

Fellow Spurs legend David Robinson will present Duncan into the hall of fame. Duncan and Robinson won two championships together as teammates. Popovich said knowing Duncan, he does not expect a long induction speech.

“He doesn’t like talking about himself. He’s never been a chest thumper or looked for the camera. He’s quite selfless and that’s just who he is,” Popovich said. “I haven’t talked to him for one second about what he’s going to say. This is all about him and he’s got to feel comfortable, but I don’t think he’s going to be up there for real long time speaking.”


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