is an American professional basketball player who currently plays for the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The 6-foot 11-inch (2.11 m), 255-pound (116 kg) power forward/center is a four-time NBA champion, two-time NBA MVP, three-time NBA Finals MVP, and NBA Rookie of the Year. He is a 14-time NBA All-Star and the only player in NBA history to be selected to both All-NBA and All-Defensive Teams during each of his first 13 seasons.
Duncan started out as a swimmer and only began playing basketball in ninth grade after Hurricane Hugo destroyed the only Olympic-sized pool on his home of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. He soon became a standout for St. Dunstan's Episcopal High School, and had an illustrious college career with the Wake Forest University Demon Deacons, winning the Naismith College Player of the Year, USBWA College Player of the Year and John Wooden awards in his final year. Duncan graduated from college before entering the 1997 NBA Draft as the number one pick. His list of accomplishments, remarkable consistency, and leadership in the Spurs' NBA championship runs in 1999, 2003, 2005, and 2007 have led basketball experts to consider him to be one of the greatest players in NBA history.
Off the court, Duncan is known for his quiet and unassuming ways, as well as his active philanthropy. He holds an honors degree in psychology and created the Tim Duncan Foundation to raise general health awareness and fund education and youth sports in various parts of the United States.
Early lifeDuncan is the only son of Ione, a midwife, and William Duncan, a mason, and has two older sisters, Cheryl and Tricia. He was born and raised in Christiansted, a town on Saint Croix, one of the main islands composing the United States Virgin Islands. In school, Duncan was a bright pupil and dreamt of becoming an Olympic-level swimmer like his sister, Tricia. His parents were very supportive and Duncan excelled at swimming, becoming a teenage standout in the 50, 100 and 400 meters freestyle and aiming to make the 1992 Olympic Games as a member of the United States Team.
When Hurricane Hugo destroyed the island's only Olympic-sized swimming pool in 1989, Duncan was forced to swim in the ocean and he quickly lost his enthusiasm for swimming because of his fear of sharks. Duncan was dealt another emotional blow when his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and died one day before his 14th birthday. In her last days, she made Duncan and his sisters promise to finish college with a degree, which would later explain Duncan's refusal to leave college early. Duncan never swam competitively again, but was inspired by his brother-in-law to turn to basketball.
Duncan initially had difficulties adapting to the game he thought would help relieve his pain and frustration. Nancy Pomroy, the athletic director of the St. Croix Country Day School was quoted: "[Duncan] was so huge. So big and tall, but he was awfully awkward at the time." He overcame this to become a standout for the St. Dunstan's Episcopal High School, averaging 25 points per game as a senior. His play attracted the attention of several universities, despite having only picked up the game in ninth grade. Wake Forest University basketball coach Dave Odom in particular grew interested in Duncan after the 16-year-old allegedly played NBA star Alonzo Mourning to a draw in a 5-on-5 pick-up game. Odom was searching for a tall, physical player to play near the basket. Given the weak level of basketball in the Virgin Islands, Odom was wary about Duncan at first, especially after first meeting him and thinking him to be inattentive; Duncan stared blankly at Odom for most of the conversation. However, after the first talk, Odom understood that this was just Duncan's way of paying attention, and discovered that he was not only athletically talented, but also a quick learner.Eventually, despite scholarship offers by the University of Hartford, the University of Delaware and Providence College, Duncan joined Odom's Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
Wake Forest UniversityIn the year before Duncan's arrival at Wake Forest University, the Demon Deacons reached the Sweet 16, but then lost main scorer Rodney Rogers, who entered the 1993 NBA Draft. In the 1993–94 NCAA season, Coach Dave Odom had considered red-shirting Duncan, but was forced to play him after fellow freshman big man Makhtar N'Diaye was ruled out due to NCAA rules violations and eventually transferred to Michigan. Duncan struggled with early transition problems and was even held scoreless in his first college game, but as the year progressed, he and teammate Randolph Childress led the Deacons to a 20–11 win–loss record. Duncan's style of play was simple but effective, combining an array of low-post moves, mid-range bank shots and tough defense. He was chosen to represent the U.S. in the 1994 Goodwill Games. Meanwhile, Duncan worked towards a degree in psychology and also took classes in anthropology and Chinese literature. Despite focusing heavily on basketball, Wake Forest psychology department chairperson Deborah Best was quoted: "Tim [...] was one of my more intellectual students. [...] Other than his height, I couldn't tell him from any other student at Wake Forest." Duncan also established his reputation as a stoic player, to the extent that opposing fans taunted him as "Mr. Spock", the prototypical logical, detached character from Star Trek.
In the 1994–95 NCAA season, the sophomore was soon called one of the most eligible NBA prospects, along with his peers Joe Smith, Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse. Los Angeles Lakers general manager Jerry West suggested that Duncan might become the top pick in the 1995 NBA Draft if he went early, but Duncan assured everyone he had no intention of going pro until he graduated, even though the NBA was planning to add a rookie salary cap in 1996. He was giving up a lot of money, but was determined to stay in school. In that season, he led the Demon Deacons into the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championship game against a Rasheed Wallace-led North Carolina Tar Heels. During that game, Duncan neutralized the threat of Wallace, while Childress sealed the win with a jump shot with four seconds left in overtime. In the NCAA Tournament, the Demon Deacons reached the Sweet 16, and playing against Oklahoma State, Duncan scored 12 points to go with 22 rebounds and eight blocks, outplaying Bryant Reeves, but his team lost 71–66. Still, Duncan ended the year averaging 16.8 points and 12.5 rebounds per game, was named Defensive Player of the Year and became the third-best shot-blocker in NCAA history with 3.98 blocks per game. He was also voted All-ACC First Team, a feat he would repeat in each of his two remaining years at Wake Forest.
In the following 1995–96 NCAA season, Wake Forest had to deal with the loss of Childress, who entered the NBA. This provided an opportunity for Duncan to show his leadership qualities, and his inexperienced team lost only four games in the entire ACC season. The Demon Deacons won the ACC Finals again, but in the Sweet 16, Duncan came down with the flu, and his team missed the Final Four by one win. He completed another remarkable season with averages of 19.1 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, and was again voted Defensive and ACC Player of the Year. At the season's end the Wake Forest star was rumored to enter the 1996 NBA Draft, but in the end, he stayed in college.
In the 1996–97 NCAA season, Duncan was helped by the addition of future NBA player Loren Woods, a 7'1" player who eased the pressure on Duncan close to the basket. The Demon Deacons won their first 13 games, but then got into a slump and failed to win a third ACC title. The NCAA campaign was just as frustrating, as Stanford University led by future NBA point guard Brevin Knight eliminated Duncan's team with a 72–66 win. Duncan finished with an individually impressive season though, averaging 20.8 points, 14.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting .606 from the field and winning the Defensive Player of the Year for a third straight season. He earned first-team All-America honors for the second time, and was a unanimous pick for both USBWA and Naismith College Player of the Year. Duncan led the 1996–97 NCAA Division I in rebounding, was 10th in blocked shots (3.3 bpg) and 28th in scoring (20.8 ppg). He was voted ACC Player of the Year again and won the 1997 John Wooden Award as the NCAA's best overall male player based on the votes of sportscasters and newswriters.
In contrast to contemporary prep-to-pro players like Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O'Neal, Tracy McGrady or Kobe Bryant, Duncan stayed at college for a full four years. During that period, he was a two-time ACC Player of the Year, and a three-time NABC Defensive Player of the Year. The center also made the All-ACC Tournament between 1995 and 1997, the All-ACC First Team between 1995 and 1997, and was named Most Valuable Player of the 1996 ACC Tournament. Further, 1996 was the year where he led the conference in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and blocked shots, becoming the first player in conference history to lead all four of those categories. Overall, Duncan led his team to a 97–31 win–loss record and finished his college career as the second-leading shot blocker in NCAA history. He remains one of only ten players with more than 2,000 career points and 1,500 career rebounds. He was also the first player in NCAA history to reach 1,500 points, 1,000 rebounds, 400 blocked shots and 200 assists. He left college as the all-time leading shot-blocker in ACC history with 481 blocks—second in NCAA annals behind Colgate's Adonal Foyle and third on the ACC career rebounding list with 1,570 rebounds. After earning his college degree, Duncan finally made himself eligible for the 1997 NBA Draft.