Posted: Monday June 13, 2005 5:15PM; Updated: Wednesday June 15, 2005 9:16AM
Tim Duncan lets his skills speak for themselves on the court and in video games.
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A few months ago, I was in San Antonio trying to figure out a way to get Tim Duncan to talk to me. I wanted to talk to him because I was writing a story about the Spurs, and, of course, without Duncan there are no Spurs. Problem is, Duncan doesn't talk to the media before games. He's polite about it, but that's his thing. So I stood around and talked 1980's SEC football with Bob Horry instead.
Then, Duncan looked up and mentioned something about SOCOM 2 to Brent Barry. And I knew I had my in.
Two nights later, 90 minutes before tip-off, Duncan sat in his locker processing a scouting report. I'd brought a copy of the video game magazine EGM with me, and instead of throwing it away when I finished reading it, I walked up to Duncan, slipped him the mag and said, "Tim, don't want to bother you, but thought you might want to check this out."
I walked back over to the loquacious Horry, who started talking about Roger Clemens' salary, when Duncan called me back over. He pulled a chair up next to him and said, softly, "Are you a gamer?"
And I was in.
I love video games, as do many in my generation. One of those people happens to be the best basketball player on the planet, Duncan. He plays online as often as he can. He doesn't play basketball video games. He says he's a PlayStation 2 guy, because he can't bring the Xbox on the road. He loved Metal Gear Solid 1, kind of liked MGS 2 and didn't really like MGS 3. After playing an early version of the PlayStation Portable, Duncan put in a bulk order so the entire team could use the wi-fi feature and play against each other on team flights.
The easy thing to do is call Duncan boring. The truth is he lets his game speak for itself. And really, what else is there to say? So many times, people in sports spout quotes because they're expected to say something. Last night, after losing to the Spurs, Pistons point guard Chauncey Billups said, "They won on their home court, we're going to try and do the same." Thanks for that nugget, Chauncey. Duncan doesn't bother playing the media game.
Last summer, during the Olympics, we nicknamed Duncan "T, Robot" in my column over at SLAM's Web site, not only for his vague resemblance to Will Smith (who, yes, looks more like Horry, but had just released I, Robot), but also for his robotic style of play and tone of voice. Watching the Spurs, there are times I'm positive Duncan is an android, programmed with every conceivable basketball maneuver. When he catches the ball in the post, his "eyes" survey the situation and relay the information to a tiny microprocessor in his head, which is why he always seems to make the proper read. (Incidentally, if Duncan is indeed a robot, his inability to hit free throws is probably a purposeful glitch in his mainframe designed to make him appear more human.)
Mostly, Duncan's is a huge kid. (Remember, he's just 29 years old.) He never wears suits because, according to former teammate Kevin Willis, he wore a suit to a game years ago and had a horrible game. So he wears jeans and T-shirts and even rocked a pair of Vans to a game at Madison Square Garden earlier this season.