A Spurs Superfan Reflects on What Tim Duncan Means to His City

Shea Serrano, a San Antonio native and Tim Duncan devotee, on Duncan’s departure from basketball: “It’s really, really, really big – it’s three reallys, that’s how big it is.”

By Michael MarksJuly 12, 2016 10:07 am|

For the first time in 20 years, San Antonio Spurs fans woke up to a day without Tim Duncan. The 40-year-old big man announced his retirement yesterday in typical Duncan fashion: with as little fanfare as possible. A brief press release from the Spurs informed Duncan disciples that their hero would step away.

Duncan is a sure bet for the Basketball Hall of Fame. With five championships and two MVP awards, his career stacks up strong. And in San Antonio – where the Spurs are literally the only game in town – he’s revered as an icon whose importance extends far beyond the court.

Shea Serrano, a writer for The Ringer and San Antonio native, wrote the personal essay “Tim Duncan and Me” about yesterday’s news. He says his relationship with Tim Duncan is very one-sided.

“I’ve been watching Tim Duncan play basketball for more than half my life,” he says. “He’s been with me longer than my wife and my kids, so it’s pretty personal I think.”

Serrano calls Duncan the greatest in San Antonio history. “It’s hard to even describe, without sounding ridiculous, what Tim Duncan means to San Antonio,” he says. “All of the stuff that’s happened around the Spurs and with the Spurs has been a chess move that he’s sort of helped make. It’s really, really, really big – it’s three reallys, that’s how big it is.”

Duncan sits easily among the game’s best players of all time. He and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers are among the few players who stayed with the same team their entire career. Before he retired, Duncan and Kevin Garnett were the only two players left in the NBA from their 1997 draft – Duncan was the first-overall draft pick that year and Garnett the fifth.

Serrano says he understands why some say Duncan’s low-key approach on the court mirrors the city’s personality.

“It’s a quiet place, San Antonio is,” he says. “You sort of keep to yourself. I think if you ask any city about their player that is there for their team, they’re going to say the same thing… I think in this case, it feels very true. He just shows up and does his work and then goes home and doesn’t worry about who’s celebrating him or not celebrating him.”

Serrano says the Spurs are important to the city because they’re the one team everyone shares. “They’re the only one we got,” he says. “Football season comes around, you can root for the Cowboys or the Texans or whatever. For San Antonio, the Spurs are theirs. They belong to them.”

Even when the team was terrible, Serrano says San Antonio has always loved the Spurs.  “It was the same sort of feeling,” he says, “where these are just your guys and you can ride with them.”

Duncan will be counted among basketball’s five greatest players, Serrano says. “It’s already happening,” he says. “Now that he’s leaving you have to think about what he’s done and talk about what he’s done. He’s going to be remembered as top five of all time, which is incredible.”

Post by Hannah McBride.