On Tuesday, free agency news came out regarding two of the NBAs greatest stars; LeBron James and Tim Duncan. As many fans expected, both players made decisions consistent with their character and approach to the game. There perhaps is no greater contrast in all the NBA than the demeanor, both on and off the court than between these two all-time greats.
For all the pomp and circumstance that has been LeBron James’ career, San Antonio Spurs future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan has been the polar opposite. Unlike his NBA Finals competitor James, Duncan has never one to demand the spotlight; rather allow the team to thrive and succeed. That team-centered approach is a major factor in the Spurs 17 season dominance in the league; where the Spurs have won 71-percent of their regular season games, made 17 straight playoff appearances and winning five titles.
As for James’ perception among many fans, one needs look no further than the Miami Heat welcome rally that was held four summers ago for LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Amidst the smoke and laser light show, James was not shy about his goal to win “not one, not two, not three…” championships for the Heat. Make no mistake, James delivered four straight NBA Finals appearances, a feat accomplished by only two other franchises in league history (Boston Celtics of the 60’s and 80s, Los Angeles Lakers of 80s). Unfortunately for Miami fans, the Heat were successful in winning the title only half of the time during this span; falling to more balanced teams in the Dallas Mavericks (2011) and San Antonio Spurs (2014). One could easily argue that the Spurs could have defeated the Heat in 2013, had it not been for the unreal heroics of Ray Allen in the final seconds of Game 6.
No matter what individual accolades James has or will achieve, the player who is more widely respected for his demeanor both on and off the court is the soft-spoken Duncan, who will attempt to match Michael Jordan as the only modern day player with six titles. Perhaps James will join that list someday; living up to his promise of anywhere up to seven or eight titles. Giving James his due credit, he was able to lift a weak Cleveland Cavaliers franchise to new heights; winning 61-perccent of his regular season contests while leading his team to five straight playoff appearances and one league Finals. It was only when he paired up with two other All-NBA stars (Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh) did his teams become dominant contenders.
As LeBron James prepares to opt out of his contract and head into free agency for the second time in his career, Duncan was quick to pick up his player option and return to San Antonio for his 18 th NBA season. Clearly, as a player at the peak of his powers, wherever he plays next season you can be sure that it will be a place where the organization can provide enough talent to keep “King James” among the title contenders for years to come.
It would not come as a surprise to see these two great players face each other in the Finals next season; regardless of whether James is in Miami or not. James has talent unlike any in recent memory; a player of elevating his team to new heights. For Duncan; as he has throughout his career, the “Big Fundamental” will be happy playing out his final games wearing the same jersey he donned back in 1997. And whether or not Duncan wins another title, there is little dispute that the 38-year old will go down in NBA history as one of its greatest winners and a lasting example of how the game should be played.
Scott Duhaime is a New England Sports fan and former resident, transplanted to Ohio. Despite his new address, his passion for sports hasn’t diminished, as best evidenced by his creation and continued contributions to Banner Day Boston and Banner Day Boston Radio .
Basketball-Reference Player Profiles: LeBron James , Tim Duncan