Until the wheels fall off…


In announcing his timetable for retirement at the start of training camp, Tim Duncan accomplished a feat so rare that few of the all-time greats have ever achieved it.

In signing Tony Parker to an extension–along with Manu Ginobili last year–that keeps the Spurs All-Star backcourt intact through their primes, the San Antonio Spurs took a large step towards an even rarer feat–extending that honor to their championship core.

Until the wheels fall off.

Only under the most exceptional of circumstances has a superstar been able to dictate the end of his career on those terms and have the authority to back it up. For an entire core, it’s almost inconceivable.

Greatness alone is not a precursor for security, as evident by Michael Jordan ending his career in a Washington Wizards uniform and running mate Scottie Pippen playing his last relevant game with the Blazers.

It takes a perfect marriage of the right superstar, organization, and city to go the distance.

For that, the Spurs organization and its fan base deserve to be lauded. In San Antonio, head coach Gregg Popovich has developed a culture of family and stability that permeates throughout the organization.

While basketball is ultimately a business and there will be a time to criticize the Parker or Ginobili extensions–especially as they age–and debate blowing the roster up, one cannot genuinely applaud the character of the Spurs organization for carrying themselves above other NBA teams while questioning them for doing just that.

Extending Tony Parker is not like extending Mike Conley.

These are not merely fan favorites like Malik Rose, or journeyman-turned-vital-contributor like Bruce Bowen. Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker are hallmarks of the franchise.

Furthermore, the three can still play. Granted, the days of the San Antonio Spurs, as constituted, being favored for an NBA championship are over. Given their productivity through the decade there is no shame in that.

But they are not exactly bad enough to blow up either. Should everything fall perfectly into place (health, internal development, luck), this is a team that will still give itself a chance against any opponent. And while many would prefer not to count on everything falling into place perfectly, realize that all NBA titles take a confluence of all these components.

In planning for the post Tim Duncan era, one is assuming there will be one. Duncan is a once in a generation talent, Ginobili and Parker were needle in a haystack finds.

Tim Duncan is the sole piece that legitimazes the Spurs championship aspirations, while a healthy and optimized Ginobili and Parker–barring an unforseen and unlikely Gasol-like deal–offer him the best chance.

Understand, Duncan is the Spurs and has been the man responsible for all the success the team has sustained. More than most athletes in history, this franchise owes this athlete the opportunity to finish out his career as he pleases, with the teammates he’s comfortable with.

Someday these three jerseys will hang together from the rafters of the AT&T Center, it would be fitting if they were the only ones the three wore in the NBA. But not until the wheels fall off.

  • marcos4303

    Cannot agree with you anymore. The last paragraph says it all.

  • doggydogworld

    Hear, hear!

  • SAJKinBigD

    Really awesome piece! Completely agree that this is the sort of thing that TRULY sets the Spurs organization apart from every other one in the league!

  • Jim Henderson

    I’d like for Duncan to re-sign as long as the price is reasonable.

  • junierizzle

    That’s what I’ve been saying since last season.

    “Til the wheels fall off”

    It’s easy to say “blow it up” and they have to trade Tp or Trade Manu. Okay, who are you going to get for them?????????????????????????????????????

    To contend you need superstars. The SPURS have 3.

    They are better sticking with this core than trading them and bringing in young talent that may never pan out.

  • Jim Henderson

    November 3rd, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    “To contend you need superstars. The SPURS have 3.

    They are better sticking with this core than trading them and bringing in young talent that may never pan out.”

    For the record, I’m still in favor of trading TP in the next year or two if we can get the right pieces for him. I don’t think we have enough talent around the big three to get over the top until it’s too late.

  • Bankshot21

    Jim Henderson
    November 3rd, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    “I’d like for Duncan to re-sign as long as the price is reasonable.”

    Is this like a joke statement? It’s gotta be some form of schtick. Duncan has left MILLIONS on the table. Before Tony and Manu and after the championships with them. Loads and loads of money left on the table to not cripple the franchise but to keep them competitive. I think its pretty fair to say that reasonable is an adjective you can attach to Tim when it comes to the good of the franchise. It truly goes without saying.

  • Tom S.

    Good reading!!

  • Jim Henderson

    November 3rd, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    22 million a year is not chicken feed for ANY nba player. My only point is at age 36 we will simply not be able to afford anything more than 10 million per year with the guys that we currently have under contract. I’m not suggesting that TD’s a greedy negotiator!