[OC] The Story of Tim Duncan's Quadruple Double in the 2003 Finals (With Gifs).
Warning: This is very long.There are lots of gifs below if you just want to go click those I don't blame you.
Every last one of us has a fear, deep in the pit of their stomach, that one morning they could wake up, and something they love could be unimaginably and irreparably different.
Change can violent, and unpredictable, both sudden and erratic. A sudden change can bring a crowd to its feet, a country to arms, or a pair of eyes to tears. Drastic disturbances to the status quo have catalyzed some of humanity's greatest feats, and jarring failures.
But the greatest changes are different.
Change is incredibly, painstakingly, perception-escapingly slow. The kind of change that hits you in the middle of the day at your desk and gets you thinking "What the hell have I been doing the past ten years?". That straw that broke the camel's back wasn't itself something to fear. The thousands of straws beneath it however, accumulated without a second glance (shout out Mos Def for that one).
Tim Duncan is going to be gone from the NBA soon. And there will be fanfare, and there will be confetti. There will be speeches, and music and all the things that Tim Duncan would kindly request be "turned down... you know maybe a smidge", had he been your seven foot tall next door neighbor and not Tim Duncan.
He'll retire from professional basketball a player with one of the greatest records of consistency ever to grace courts and stat sheets alike. "The Big Fundamental" banked his way through season after season, stone faced and methodical. The guy with a hardware emporium full of tools, mentally prepared for any situation, leaves generations of basketball fans without the need for disclaimers like "No, no, I meant Cleveland Shaq".
But the man ubiquitous with San Antonio basketball has undergone plenty of change beyond the documented shift between a one and three setting on Duncan's hair trimmer. Yet every time you think you catch the future Hall of Famer slipping, he plays a game so reminiscent of 2006 you consider giving My Chemical Romance another shot. You don't though. Keep that phase of your life buried deep. Burn all the pictures.
There lies the beauty of Tim Duncan's longevity. Each valley only a fraction deeper than the peak preceding it, the reduction in what you see is diluted over games, even years. In 2011, when Duncan's points per game average dipped to a career low 13, his reign seemed to be coming to a close. Never a world stopping scorer, his ability to win match ups and create offensive gravity was important to the success of the San Antonio Spurs. Two years following the dip, the big man was scoring nearly 18 points per contest.
Duncan, equally, if not more important to the team defensively, matched the second highest mark for blocks per game (2.7) of his career again in 2012-2013, further defying expectations after his career low of 1.5 bpg the previous season. The violent transformation to Tim Duncan- retiree, was again swept from the public eye.
But why all this talk of change? We get it, Tim Duncan's career is a slow arch over the course of which some, if not many of us may have possibly overlooked a thing or two, and may have possibly forgotten just how dominant a player heralded for having a relatively unexciting game could... oh I see what you're doing.
NBA statistics are a weird thing. Every fan, player, coach and analyst has their own personal system of weighting to define just what is truly important to them in the game of basketball. Everyone will find a way to justify their criteria for greatness, whether it's presenting a pace adjusted, hyper-efficiency-centric, advanced metric chocked, seven color shot chart, or pounding out "JUST FUCKING TELL ME IF YOU WANT HIM SHOOTING AGAINST YOU AT THE BUZZER" on an online message board... is up to you. If you are by chance the second guy though, shoot me an email and let me know how Limp Bizkit is doing. Haven't heard much about them recently.
Somewhere in the middle of those two, Tim Duncan sits, avoiding glances with his arms pulled in tight to his body. To be fair, Duncan's personal thesis on NBA greatness probably sounds something along the lines of "try your best and have fun. That's all that matters". I'm positive the youth coach that bestowed that phrase on a young Tim in the US Virgin Islands followed it with, "and score double digits in as many categories as you humanly can".
June 15th, 2003 saw one of the greatest NBA Finals performances in history take place in San Antonio, Texas. Triple Doubles are elusive, in NBA Finals games- untouchable. So for Tim Duncan to score 21 points, pull down 20 rebounds, dish off ten assists, and finish it off with 8 recorded blocks, was a lesson plan in all around dominance.
The last man to record a quadruple double happily egged on Duncan. David Robinson, Duncan's teammate, enjoyed his final NBA game watching the twin to his tower chase the legendary benchmark.
Of course Tim didn't give a fuck about it.
Me: So Timmy how do you feel about putting on one of the greatest finals performances of all time?
"Down the stretch, my shot wasn't exactly there and luckily enough I was drawing double teams and those guys were hitting shots"
Me: ...Okay well, How did David Robinson feel about you nearly scoring a quadruple-double? Some seem to think you may have actually had some unrecorded blocks?
"For a second there on the court, the last couple of seconds, I really thought, 'You know what, I'm not going to play with this guy again. I'm going to have to come out on this court without him. It's going to be weird"
*Me: Sometimes I feel like you barely listen to me Tim.
I don't love you anymore.
Two of those quotes are real.
This guy has 20 rebounds, 21 points, 10 assists and 8 blocks in an NBA FINALS game, and he gives us "My shot wasn't exactly there". Maybe this is why people don't seem to notice the decline from Tim Duncan's peak. He's been humble to the point of laughable omission. His contemporaries would have given teammates thanks, but rightfully accepted their weight in praise.
The game six contest was an opportunity for San Antonio to clinch the finals against the Jason Kidd piloted New Jersey Nets. Closing out David Robinson's final game in San Antonio would mean the world to many of the Spurs' faithful.
Tim Duncan loves shit like that.
Averaging 4.8 blocks per game throughout the finals, The Big Fundamental's nearly 25 points per contest was merely a footnote scribbled at the base of New Jersey's gameplan.
Following the tip, number 21 got right to work stuffing the stat sheet. In a 48 second span beginning at 10:10 in the first quarter, Duncan would record a rebound, a teetering floater in off a pe from the high post, anda tag team blockwith who else but David Robinson.
Looks good. Now, do that once every ten minutes, throw in ten assists and don't get tired or foul out and you'll have hit the minimum requirements of a quadruple double.
His timing was consistently near perfection. Defense so well excituted it often seemed players attacked the rim and gifted the ball intowaiting arms of the man in black and grey. Tim Duncan's subtlety was like breathing. So effortless and quiet its presence was noted only in its absence.
The Basketball Gods understand the difficulty of pinpointed subtle shifts. At 7:50 left in the first, a Jason Kidd airball gave way to a swift and smooth Duncan pushing the ball up the floor as the ball drifted effortlessly between his hands. That was your friendly reminder that it was 2003.
As the first quarter came to a close, the Nets held a 25-17 lead. Richard Jefferson of New Jersey making a dent offensively, though the inside was heavily guarded by The Spurs' bigs. Duncan was already approaching his finals average, holding four blocks at the end of one. The forward also had 7 of San Antonio's disappointing 17, new contributors had to emerge going down the line if more awkward high fives were to be had in San Antonio. It's never good when a highlight fades to a new play before a potential fast break score.
The second quarter saw Duncan contribute with his passing beyond his defense and scoring. Though averaging about 4.5 assists per game throughout the series. New Jersey's defense had a whole new set of questions to answer when it was clear that Tim was looking to distribute as well as score and send enough shots back to the Garden State to liquor up the big dude from The Jersey Shore for at least the night.
Former teammate of Allen Iverson, Speedy Claxton found himself open on the receiving end of some Duncan dimes from the post, likely a result of the Nets finding they had no footage of the guard ever actually having touched the ball before. And there was much rejoicing.
Duncan's artistry and variety of skill was on display on the biggest stage imaginable beginning in the second quarter. Defensively continuing his steady plod, on pace to 20 boards, while delivering devastating defensive impact. On offense, Duncan was the mule that ground the grain, the ball began in his hands, and whether it finished in them or not , the Spurs had no chance to keep up with the Nets without Duncan as the point of origin.
The stats meant nothing to number 21. That was clear then as it is clear today. But winning that game on June 15th, a hot day in San Antonio, Texas did. Change is gradual. Sometimes, you don't know a mountain is a volcano until it's too late .
Still down by 3 after the first half. Duncan's heroics needed to continue and then some.
Thirty seconds into the third act, a nifty dish falling out of bounds to a wide open David Robinson underneath the basket prompted commentator Bill Walton to mention Duncan's closing proximity to the quadruple double. Walton, one of the most avid proponents of hyperbole that has ever graced God's green earth (this may seem like hyperbole, but it's not), was in truth, right on point. Duncan was doing something reserved for basketball's greatest.
TD continued to rebound, pass and block his way through the third, though his first points did not arrive until a long jumper found the bottom of the net with 5 minutes remaining in the quarter, San Antonio down by 10.
Examining a game in which he was so dominant, it's hard to see Tim Duncan being undersold. Yet that is exactly what happened. Duncan was credited with 8 blocks in the final box score, leaving him 2 short of the mythical quad-dub. Yet at 6:43 in the third, Duncan clearly blocks a shot by Kerry Kittles that went unreported. Of course in the nature of all things mythical, footage is only available from the crew of The History Channel's "Finding Sasquatch".
Minutes later, again Duncan would clearly reject a shot, gobble up the rebound and look to push transition, the Spurs still down 8 with 5 minutes to go in the third. Again, Duncan would not receive credit for the stuff. Down 6 with the final quarter looming, the crowd swelling behind each desperate Spurs' possession, The Big Fundamental opted out of a trip to the scorers table to check his statistics. The only number needed was 7. 7 points to take the lead. 7 points to make up, 7 points to send David Robinson out on top.
Bill Walton is easily awed. I'd like to imagine he leaves ten page novelas in suggestion boxes at least twice a week, waxing poetic about "the icy lakes of the Alps on a clear day". But early in the fourth, when Bill Walton called Tim Duncan "A true master", he meant it. Duncan established himself inside with a gorgeous face up post move leading to a soft floater.
As the Spurs made their charge, the Nets offense floundered. Duncan continued to lock down that side of the court, not only with his one on one matchup, but savant like help defense as well. The arena grew louder as San Antonio's D went from staunch to nearly impenetrable. On eight straight possessions The Black and Grey's defense held steady. Duncan blocking shots all the way out to the perimeter.
Energy in the building rose as The Spurs closed the gap on the offensive end not with TD's scoring, but rather his passing. Steven Jackson rose to the occasion.
San Antonio took their first lead of the game when Duncan, double teamed, fed a wide open Stephen Jackson, who buried the trey, giving the Spurs the 73-72 advantage. The frenzied audience sprung to their feet like a mousetrap.
The second Duncan to Jackson connection would ensure they remained there until the Larry O'Brien trophy was safely in their collective arms. Over the course of the 18-0 fourth quarter run, Tim Duncan had ensured that David Robinson would go out a champion. What better way to salute The Admiral than to accept the last of the many torches that had exchanged hands between the two? League recognized or not, Duncan could have cared less. The only recognition Tim Duncan would mention in the post game interviews the night of that series clinching victory was that of his teammates.
Maybe some things do stay the same.
We all prepare for the change we fear. The disaster, the emergency, the split second decision. We've readied ourselves for the disappearance of Tim Duncan for years, yet time and again our expectations have been defied. Creating biggest splash takes seconds, but the greatest waves are built in time.