Basketball: San Antonio Spurs fete five-time champion Duncan

San Antonio Spurs celebrated the 19-year National Basketball Association career of power forward Tim Duncan, who led the team to five championships before retiring prior to this season.
San Antonio Spurs celebrated the 19-year National Basketball Association career of power forward Tim Duncan, who led the team to five championships before retiring prior to this season. PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The scoreline in San Antonio read 113-100 on Sunday, but the number that really mattered to the Spurs was 21.

That is the number that was raised to the rafters as the Spurs - after downing the New Orleans Pelicans 113-100 - celebrated the 19-year National Basketball Association career of power forward Tim Duncan, who led the team to five championships before retiring prior to this season.

"No Tim, no championships," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, although that terse summing up was just part of the story told in a playful, sometimes emotional post-game ceremony.

Current Spurs players and former Duncan team-mates Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker paid tribute to a man they came to know as a friend as well as a team-mate.

"He didn't lead in the normal way - there were no chest bumps," Argentina's Ginobili said. "Tim was our leader behind the scenes, in the hotel room or in the locker room out of the public eye."

Duncan, 40, departed the league having been named NBA finals' Most Valuable Player three times and regular-season MVP twice.

The Spurs' .710 winning percentage during Duncan's tenure was the best 19-year stretch in NBA history and was the best in all of the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB over that time.

But Popovich said Duncan's legacy extends beyond the gaudy numbers.

"I am proud to say to his mother and father, who have passed, that he is exactly the man now that he was when he walked in my door," Popovich said.