NBA: Duncan's legacy isn't something he thinks about
San Antonio • Annual traditions are everywhere in San Antonio.
There's the way the famed Riverwalk is transformed into a sea of lights at holiday time. Fiesta Noche del Rio, a summerlong outdoor performance of song and dance that dates back more than half a century. A huge rodeo, taking over the city for about three weeks every winter.
And of late, there's been the Tim Duncan Watch.
Unlike the others, this is one San Antonioians dread.
Someday, the star of the San Antonio Spurs will retire, though if he knows when, he's not telling.
He entered Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night one win away from what would be his fifth championship ring, and speculation has been rampant that if the Spurs topple the Miami Heat and end their reign atop the league that Duncan might finally feel like the time is right to end what will surely be a Hall of Fame career.
"I don't have any plans on doing anything," Duncan said Saturday. "I'm going to figure it out when it comes. I'm not saying I'm retiring. I'm not saying I'm not retiring. I'm not saying anything. I'm going to figure it out as it goes. I've always said if I feel like I'm effective, if I feel like I can contribute, I'll continue to play. Right now I feel that way, so we'll see what happens."
He's been hearing the retirement question for years.
When the 2011-12 season was threatened by a lockout, it was speculated that Duncan might have already played his last game. He's certainly doesn't play for money anymore he's making about $10 million this season, a giant sum in the real world but well below market value by NBA standards and has always seemed to be a reluctant superstar.
And then, every fall, Duncan shows up for training camp, the Spurs win a bunch of games, and the legacy just keeps growing.
"I know he's got one more year on his contract, and he loves being with us, loves playing basketball," Spurs guard Tony Parker said. "Either way, whatever he decides, I'll support him. But if I have to choose, obviously, I would love him to keep going. I love playing with him."
It's hard to find something in San Antonio more revered than the Spurs.
"Go Spurs Go" signage hangs from what seems like every other building in the sprawling city. If someone is on the streets of San Antonio on game day and not wearing Spurs gear, chances are they live somewhere else. During the NBA Finals, it's not uncommon for residents to strap Spurs flags onto their cars, drive through downtown and honk like crazy even on off days in the series.
Duncan has never played for money anyplace else. Sunday was his 1,488th NBA game. Every one of them has been in a Spurs uniform. The only other players in NBA history to play that many games and never change teams: Utah's John Stockton and Indiana's Reggie Miller.
"He feels a responsibility to his teammates," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "He enjoys them. He wants to hang around as long as he can while he's useful and while he's having an impact on the game. He takes care of his body. He works out all summer long with a variety of different things, boxing, swimming. He's very careful about what he puts in his body, so he does everything he can to maintain a level of play.
"At some point," Popovich added, "that will stop."
Duncan insists he doesn't know. It's something he, Parker and Manu Ginobili the Spurs' Big 3 have been hearing for years, that their demise and breakup is imminent.
By now, they almost find it amusing.
"We've been on our last run for the last five or six years from how everyone wants to put it," Duncan said. "We show up every year, and we try to put together the best teams and the best runs possible because what people say doesn't matter to us. As I said, as long as we feel we're being effective, we're going to stay out here and we're going to play. We feel like we can be effective, and we have been."
Duncan would be the 21st player in NBA history to win five rings with one team. Everyone else on that list played for the Lakers, Celtics or Bulls. That speaks to longevity and sustained greatness, which all factors in to the enormous legacy he'll leave behind at some point.
Again, though, that's not Duncan's thinking. Not now. Not yet.
"I think there will be time for that, time to look back on that once everything is over," Duncan said. "For now all I'm focusing on is trying to get another one. Doesn't matter if it's four, five, two or one before. This is the only one that counts right now and that is this is the only one that's in my head right now."