Silver and black memories: Duncan’s near quadruple-double


“Silver and black memories? Really Andrew, you guys are hurting for content that much during the lockout?” Yes, yes we are. There’s only so much we can talk about the quotes coming out of the occasional meeting between the players and owners. And since 48 Minutes of Hell didn’t start until 2008, now is as good a time as any to look back at some the San Antonio Spurs’ historic moments that we missed.

There have been four quadruple-doubles in NBA history. Half of them were successfully completed by San Antonio Spurs. One June evening in 2003, there was almost a fifth.

In 2003 Tim Duncan was at the height of his powers. Weeks earlier Duncan was handed his second straight league MVP award and averaged a 23-13-4-3 line in the regular season. His fingerprints were on everything the Spurs did that year and he carried a team Spurs team to the Finals featuring a on-his-way-out David Robinson and early renditions of Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Stephen Jackson.

The Spurs played the New Jersey Nets in the Finals that year, a Nets team that surrounded Jason Kidd with a bunch of athletes (including the beloved Richard Jefferson). Not quite athletes, Jason Collins and Dikembe Mutombo were allowed to play with Kidd also.

Both teams split the first four games and the Spurs took the all-important Game 5 in New Jersey, sending the silver and black home to San Antonio one game away from a second title. This was to be David Robinson riding into the sunset with another championship, and it was — to an extent.

Instead, the notoriously selfish, stat-conscious Tim Duncan stole the Admiral’s moment and delivered the best Finals performance I had ever seen.

Watching clips of Duncan on that night, several things stick out. The first is how much more Duncan handled the ball back then. At this point in his career, Duncan’s dribbles are limited to catching a pass at the top of the key and taking one dribble towards a teammate on the wing and handing the ball off. But back in 2003, Duncan was running pick-and-rolls as the ball handler with Robinson.

On a related note to Duncan’s ball handling — the footwork. Love it. Miss it. Want to bottle it up and sell it to the league’s young big men.

A lot of NBA fans remember this game and the gaudy statline that Duncan put up. One lesser-known fact is that Duncan set the record for blocks in an NBA Finals series. Basically, Duncan was a monster at this time.

I vaguely remember the post-game press conference that night. Someone asked Duncan a question about his box score that night, if he realized that he was two blocked shots away from a quadruple-double.

“No I didn’t,” Duncan said matter-of-factly, “Thatâ’s pretty cool.”

That was it.

It was a mix of honesty and the humbleness we’ve all come to expect, with a bit of not-quite-understanding-the-magnitude-of-his-accomplishment-at-the-time thrown in. Duncan had just won his second NBA title; he had other things on his mind.

But he spared us the clichés of it being a team effort and not being able to do it without his teammates or something of the sort. Nor did he answer the question by not answering it at all. No talking in circles. It was simple and direct, and it’s stuck in my head ever since.

I miss Kevin Willis.

RIP ABC boob cam.

  • Tōn the Beat Counselor

    For one night, everything was right in the world.

    I’ll take this game over any of Jordan’s…

  • Brandon

    This was one of those rare moments in life where I remember everything… Reagan being shot, 9-11, the birth of my first-born, and Duncan’s near quad.

  • Nathan Verney

    A quadruple double – that’s nothing! Duncan’s also befriended over 10,000 women!

  • JustinFL

    Thank you guys!  This was the perfect pick me up for a dreary Monday.  I also like the fact that we were down until about 6 and half to go in the fourth.  Talk about showing up for a close out game.

  • Tyler Remmert

    i was there, and I remember every second, especially when The Admiral, coming out of the game right before it ended, stood up on the back row of team seats on the bench and started waving a towel, grinning like only he could.

    that was a special moment. 

  • SpurINhouston

    That was nearly emotional for me. It was like looking back at old family footage and remembering when grandma used to have brown hair and got around without a wheelchair. These guys defined an era of basketball that I wish permeated just a bit longer. And to think it all happened in the “small market” town of SA. Thanks for the yearbook memories 48MOH.

  • Saitalijanskog Nasrpski

    Man, he redefined power forward. A fast, modern player with great skill and focus throughout the whole game. Also has a excellent shooting percentage in the paint. One of the best power forwards of all time (I kinda like Shawn Kemp more)  :)

  • Bob

    I am also impressed with Duncan’s footwork and ball handling. With decent quickness and the more length over other power forwards Duncan used to have a constant mismatch. With age robbing him of athleticism Duncan needs to go back to fundamentals such as footwork.

    If the Spurs can start Splitter next year I think it will allow him to go back to being defended by power forwards where he has the height advantage. I think if he had been defended by Randolph for most of the Grizz series he would have been able to average 20 and 10. Making Randolph work on defense would have meant he had less energy to expend on offense. Randolph basically played no defense all series. Bonner, Blair, and McDyess couldn’t get him to work on defense.

  • Gomezd

    Very nostalgic, and seen this is like a bucketfull of ice water has been thrown at me, I dont think I had fully understood-until know- how MUCH Duncan has really declined…. guess I was in denial

  • Bry


  • Bry

    How does this game by Duncan compare to any rivals for the best performance while clinching a title? I’d like to to see the line-up. I know Jordan against Utah will be a popular pick as well.

  • Len

    His overall game obviously has declined but it’s defensively that hurts the most.  Timmy was stopping the penetration, forcing a dish to another player and then blocking the finish, BY HIMSELF.  That is legendary stuff.

  • Digiphoto45

    I agree but let’s hope Pop takes a lesson from the Brazilian coach this summer. 

  • Titletown99030507d

    He can still block some shots and make a nice perimeter shot of the the glass. 

  • Bob

    I miss Bill Walton

  • SAinSLC

    Did anyone notice that on both of Tim’s assists to Stephen Jackson for backdoor layups it was Richard Jefferson missing his defensive assignment?

  • Tim in Surrey

    A couple of thoughts:

    First, I’m still a bit amazed that when John Hollinger recently ranked individual NBA finals performances in the post-merger era, Duncan only made it to number six. The five ahead of him were Jordan in 1997 Game 5, Magic in 1980 Game 6 (which should definitely be #1, IMHO), Worthy in 1988 Game 7, Jordan in 1998 Game 6, and Karl Malone in 1998 Game 5. (That’s right, he put Karl Malone in the top five even though his team LOST the series.) The really interesting part is that when he does get around to Duncan at number six, he cites Game 1 against the Nets, rather than Game 6. You can read his entry here:

    I’m a bit annoyed at this list, actually, because Hollinger specifically developed a system to rank such performances and it ranked that game by Duncan as the best ever. (It’s essentially a tweak of Larry Bird’s old idea of adding all the positive things like pts, reb, ast, etc. and then subtracting fouls, TOs, missed FTs and missed FGs.) He then abandoned his own ranking system for purely subjective reasons. I can see putting Magic’s 1980 Game 6 ahead because of Kareem’s injury, but not the others. And Hollinger himself seems to agree, when he points out that Duncan’s insane offensive numbers should be even more impressive because he was the only great offensive player going against an elite defensive team. 

    Astonishingly, though, Hollinger completely omits Duncan’s Game 6 from his top 50! I have no idea why. (He does, however, include 1999 Game 1 at 32, 2003 Game 5 at 35, and 2007 Game 1 at 45, as well as Manu’s performance in 2005 Game 2 at 21.) In fact, according to his formula, it’s equivalent to what Kareem did in 1980 Game 5 (which ranked #12) and then should get a subjective boost because it was a series-clinching performance. But Hollinger does have a sophomoric tendency in these lists to try to overturn conventional wisdom. Somebody should send him one of those “I am eruditer than you” buttons. :

    Another thing that I remembered from watching Game 6 was particularly enjoying the fact that Walton was calling it. Duncan is the player who most reminds me of Walton in his prime–in a way, he’s the player that Walton should’ve been. And of course Walton was one of the players who held the NBA Finals record of eight blocks that Duncan tied that evening. So it was cool to hear the analysis of perhaps the one person in the world best able to appreciate Duncan’s performance.

  • Tim in Surrey

    Dude, you’re insane. I lived in Seattle during Kemp’s prime. It’s not close and even The Reign Man would agree.

  • Tim in Surrey

    Let it go, man. Let it go.

  • Andrew A. McNeill

    Good stuff Tim. You beat me to mentioning that Game 1 from 2003. It’s overshadowed by Duncan’s box score from Game 6, but almost as impressive. I’ll probably be writing about it within the next couple of weeks.

  • BT