Home > Uncategorized > Dan Shaughnessy on Tim Duncan…

Dan Shaughnessy on Tim Duncan…

I don’t really want Sports on the Brain to be one of those blogs that searches out articles by established sports writers and tears into them. Partly, because if you’re going to do something so querulous, then you have to do it with an exceptional amount of intelligence and wit, and.. well… I’m just not going to do it better than these guys did. But also, because with the proliferation of FJM copycat blogs, at this point it seems banal, jealous and mean spirited, and that’s not really what I’m interested in…

(you can just see the giant BUT coming here, can’t you?)

But… today, Sports Illustrated’s Dan Shaughnessy wrote a column were he disputes the notion that Tim Duncan is one of the ten best players in NBA history. That he’s wrong is I’m sure obvious to almost everyone with even a rudimentary understanding of basketball, but lets ignore the end result for a minute and look at some of his logic.

Off the top of my head I’d take Wilt Chamberlain (always No. 1, the guy averaged 50.4 points a game during the 1961-62 season), Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Bob Cousy ahead of Duncan. There’s a quick 10 without as much as a three-second violation.

Ok, first off, we know that the Bible took apart Chamberlain as a potential top dog in NBA history so completely that it’s now hard to respect anyone who keeps Wilt ensconced there based upon logic like, he averaged 50.4 points per game in a single season (It’s called context Dan). Yet, obviously Wilt is still in the top ten, as are Jordan, Kareem, Magic, Bird, and Russell. I’d say then that Duncan comes in at the front of a group that includes (in some order) Shaq, Kobe, Oscar, and West, with the Diesel having a big advantage in terms of upside, but also having the biggest caveat, because he spent so many seasons running in neutral.

The real kicker in Shaughnessy’s group though is Cousy. Come on Dan, we all get that you’re a rabid Boston homer, but Cousy? Better than Duncan? Lets use one of Bill Simmons’ favourite constructs. We’ll play a game with our lives on the line and you can have either Cousy, who was a tremendous court leader, a gifted passer, and a cagey player who couldn’t shoot water out of a hose, or Duncan. A player who at his best was a seven foot behemoth, who protected the rim so smartly that he managed to affect shots without taking himself out of the play. A player who was a strong passer out of double teams, which his presence demanded, because his bank shot was so automatic that teams couldn’t let him get in position to take it. And a player who just happened to grab ten boards a game without thinking. Cousy was great, but he’s at least ten players away from the top ten and taking him over Duncan with your life on the line would be a little like saying, “let’s play Russian Roulette with a single barrel shotgun, I’ll go first.”

Nothing against Duncan, but you could also give me Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Julius Erving, Elgin Baylor, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and Kevin McHale. Oh, and let’s not forget Bob Pettit, Moses Malone, John Stockton and Isiah Thomas.

I’m sorry, but did you just add perennial runner ups Barkley and Malone into a covnersation with four time champion Duncan? And Stockton? Believe me when I say that I love the guy, but… him? Really? I already mentioned Bryant in my top ten, Hakeem certainly could make an argument, and we all know that unless he’s abducted by the military for some sort of secret cloning project, LeBron will reside somewhere in the pantheon one day, but Thomas? Petite? Baylor? Erving? Great, great, great, and great, but better than Duncan? Please.

Somehow, I’ve missed Duncan’s greatness. Maybe it’s because he played in San Antonio. Maybe it’s the lack of flair in his game. Even his nickname is boring. Please, “The Big Fundamental?” Sounds like a guy you’d fit for a pocket protector.

I’m sorry, did you just argue that you can’t include Duncan in your top ten because his game didn’t have flair and you don’t like his nickname? Maybe he should have flashed more Jazz Hands, given himself a pseudonym like Agent Zero, and then everything he does to (you know) actually win games might have been obvious to you. And SI wonders why it’s subscriptions are dropping faster than an accelerating Toyota.

I’ll admit that the more I scour Duncan’s numbers, the better he looks. He’s a 7-footer who plays great defense, makes the perfect outlet passes and uses the glass like no one else his size. He’s won his whole career, and he’s done it quietly. Too quietly for his own good, maybe. Playing in a small media market has disguised some of his greatness.
Duncan continues to play at an amazing level for a guy closing in on 34…

…Duncan was predictably humble about the whole deal.

We went down my list. I started rattling off names.
“You got 12 right there,” he said.
Tim Duncan is not going to fight about this. Even he admits it is absurd. He is a great player. He’s just not one of the 10 greatest of all time.

Hey, I’ve got a great idea, I’m going to determine that a guy isn’t one of the ten best players of all time. Then, when I actually look into it, I’ll find that he really is, but rather than concede my point, I’ll go ask him if he thinks he’s better than the twelve names I’ve randomly placed above him. If he disagrees, then I can pillory him for being arrogant, but if he doesn’t then I can write, “Even he admits it is absurd.” No Shaughnessy, what’s absurd is your entire column.

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  1. betterlatethannever
    August 12, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Too bad instead of reading his article, or actually watching basketball, you just could see only see your Shaughnessy hatred. That’s ok, you’re in big company. I will admit, I was shocked that his tenth was the Cooz, and I am glad you called him out on it. And yeah, even the next 12 kinda pushed it with some. But he’s pretty much on the button. Duncan is lucky if he’s in the top 20.
    Accomplishment-wise, He’s up there with anyone. But unlike a lot of others of that Jordan Bird Magic top ten caliber…he wouldn’t get any rings if he was in any other situation. Fact of the matter is, even though Barkley and Malone were ‘perennial runner-ups,’ if Duncan switched shoes with either of’em, we wouldn’t even know who he was.
    The only OFFENSIVE thing about your article: “That he’s wrong is I’m sure obvious to almost everyone with even a rudimentary understanding of basketball….” You’re wrong, it would’ve been more accurate if you wrote “that he’s wrong is I’m sure obvious to almost everyone with ONLY a rudimentary understanding of basketball.”

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