It was a matter of when, not if, Tim Duncan would retire.
Just look at the date on the press release.
SAN ANTONIO (July XX, 2016) – San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan today announced that he will retire after 19 seasons with the organization.
Duncan — not Kobe Bryant — was the greatest player of his generation until LeBron James came around to steal the title.
The No. 1 pick in the 1997 draft after four years at Wake Forest, Duncan entered the NBA to incredible expectations. And he exceeded them.
Duncan won five championships and made the playoffs each of his 19 seasons. He won two MVPs made 15 All-NBA teams (10 first teams) and 15 All-Defensive teams (eight first teams).
Known for his methodical consistency on both ends of the floor, Duncan defined this era of Spurs basketball. Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and even David Robinson, the Spurs’ incumbent superstar center when Duncan was drafted, followed Duncan’s lead.
Robinson created a quirk where Duncan was considered a power forward despite his 6-foot-11, 250-pound frame looking rather centerish. That’ll allow Duncan to go down as the greatest power forward of all time.
Years of solid, though declining, play have caused some to forget just how impactful Duncan was in his prime. In the 2002 and 2003 seasons, he averaged 24.4 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.7 blocks per game.
San Antonio is well-positioned to move on. Kawhi Leonard had already supplanted Duncan as the Spurs’ top player, and LaMarcus Aldridge is a high-end big-man complement. Popovich, Parker and Ginobili return to provide their wisdom.
If San Antonio continues to pay Duncan’s $6,393,750 salary, it will count against the cap. That seems unlikely, but given everything Duncan has meant to the Spurs, it at least seems possible.