I wanted to make a post about Tim Duncan retiring today, but it being my brother’s birthday ‘n all, I should probably shout him out. (Especially because I forgot last year.) It’s strange though, that the more I think about the two, looking past the obvious name-share (Tim), the more I can draw eerily similar comparisons of them.
For starters, a focus on the fundamentals, whether in basketball or in life, will guarantee long term, sustainable success. Duncan wasn’t the most athletically gifted guy on the floor, but he was absolutely the smartest. (And boy did he bring sexy back with his bank shot, which, if you’re watching anyone else, is the least exciting two points in basketball you’ll see.) The sheer longevity of TD’s career is remarkable in and of itself, but to do it without the flash or ego or narcissism that’s become so stale – yet seemingly required in today’s game – and with personal sacrifice for the betterment of “team”, is what makes Timmy so special.
One of my favorite quotes goes something like “It takes a lifetime to build your reputation, and only seconds to tear it down.” It’s powerfully true, and scary to think about. It’s difficult to be the same person behind-the-scenes as the one on display. It’s a grind. It takes patience. It’s mentally daunting to be the same person when nobody’s looking, but it’s not fruitless. There’s something heroic about being stoic. There’s something extraordinary about being ordinary. There’s a certain jealousy towards the humble, who go through life with a seemingly careless desire to appease and conform to others; It can come off as arrogance, and maybe in some cases that’s true, but mostly, it’s a reflection of the accuser. In a world where celebrities are idolized, materialism is God, and Facebook feeds are bible, it’s easy to overlook the old fashioned aficionados. The old school elite. The do-the-right-thing, every time, no matter whats – The Tims. That’s why I look up to my brother more than anyone else on the planet; Physically, he’s 14 months older than I am, but in the way of wisdom, he’s light years ahead of me.
Through him I’ve seen that with a bit of hard work, unselfishness, and self awareness, you can establish and maintain personal fulfillment. But it will always be a constant battle, and an impeccable work ethic isn’t gifted – it’s earned. It is one built on consistency, sacrifice, and raw willpower. There are no accolades for the time spent working towards your goals, but people like Tim don’t need standing ovations or pats on the back. They don’t need short-lived recognition; they’re confident their goals will eventually be realized. Once achieved, those accomplishments become their legacy, and that legacy becomes their gift to the world.
Duncan will go down as one of the best defensive players ever and one of the best teammates ever. He’s taking home five rings spanning three decades, earning three MVPs, and has notched the 3rd-best record a player has posted since the inception of professional basketball. Despite it all, people have continually called him “criminally underrated” because of the way he goes about his business. (Which I’m unsure whether that’s a knock on the average fan, or a nod to the rarity that is Tim Duncan.) I would be remiss to credit his success solely to fundamentals and hard work, because anyone who’s had that type of success is genius – but anyone outside his personal bubble doesn’t see that because Duncan will never let you in. It’s not magic, but the way he’s progressed and transformed over the years sure makes it look like it. And though it’s not magic, he is a magician, constantly pulling off new tricks and mastering old ones. He’s otherworldly, aging like a fine wine. He’s humble yet formidable, quiet yet fearsome, and though he’s not a star in the truest sense – because people can’t relate to someone so alien – he will probably go down as one of the most loved athletes in the history of sports. That’s his legacy: achieving the improbable, and doing it the hard way. Yet to us mere mortals, it looks as though he’s achieving the impossible the easy way, because he makes it look so effortless. But we don’t see behind the curtain. (As they say, a great magician never reveals his secrets.) We only see his performances, and they’ve been damn fun to watch.
My brother doesn’t have a legacy yet. He quietly keeps to himself and avoids the spotlight. He’s easily forgotten… Until he’s not. Like TD, Tim shines brightly within his own aura, so there’s no need for the limelight. Never asking for or needing help, he sees through the facade of temptation. And in the words of Greg Popovich (on Duncan): “he’s the most consistent, true, and genuine person on the planet.” And that’s exactly how I feel about my brother. His thirst for knowledge and hunger for understanding are (annoyingly) what makes him, him. I’ve learned not to ask him for advice, because he always tells me what I don’t want to hear: the cold, hard truth. He softly, but diligently and forcefully, attacks life – but not head on – because that’s stupid. Tim would never stand for the horrible, half-baked idea of “leading with your head,” and he absolutely, positively would not stand for such a horrible cliche.
See, creatives like me are flashy, arrogant know-it-alls. We have a flair for the dramatic, belief in the miraculous, and a knack for producing (and thriving) in controlled chaos. We’re the Kobe Bryants: spurts of amazing talent that overshadow our personal shortcomings, making it easy to overlook our failures… and our last 10 missed shots. But the Tims are cold and calculated killers: always two steps ahead of the opposition, they’ll sacrifice their scoring line and turn in blanks on the stat sheet if it means coming out on top. Slowly, steadily, surely, Tims win. And the thing is, you really don’t mind losing to them. For example, there was a game once where Duncan blocked a dude’s shot, and on the very next dead ball, gave him some unwarranted advice (IN GAME!) on how to not repeat his mistake. THAT is my brother; he will show you his hand, play it blindly, and still beat you. It’s incredible. It’s annoying. It’s pretty funny. It’s Tim.
So to Mr. Practical, the darts player I’ve never beat, the guy with the nerdiest taste in comedy I know, and the person I’ve never won an argument with, (and probably never will,) may your hops be fresh, your bitters be bountiful, and your next batch of homebrew drinkable. Happy Birthday!