By: Matt Chilson, Wake Forest Contributor
Tim Duncan has more NBA Championships to his name than 26 of the 30 franchises in the NBA. The future Hall of Famer played 19 seasons in the NBA all with the same team, the San Antonio Spurs. Duncan has helped the Spurs make the postseason every single year he has been in the league. How about what happened before Duncan’s Hall of Fame career?
Duncan grew up in the U.S. Virgin Islands and didn’t pick up basketball until his freshman year in high school. Before then, Duncan was a swimmer, a good one at that. He was the best swimmer in the whole country in the 400-meter freestyle for his age group. However, a hurricane destroyed his team’s pool and he gave up swimming and picked up basketball, which was probably the best decision of his life.
In high school, Duncan grew nine inches and ended up being heavily recruited by Wake Forest University. The Demon Deacon’s head coach at the time, David Odom, wanted another big to compliment the play of Randolph Childress and found just that in Duncan. The 17-year-old islander later committed to Wake.
During his freshman season, Duncan averaged under 10 points per game but was producing on the glass, as he collected over 10 rebounds per game. During ACC play the Deacs surprisingly beat both of their rivals: UNC and Duke. Wake was later eliminated by Kansas in the second round of the NCAA tournament, but that season was just the beginning of Tim’s amazing career.
The following season was one that Wake fans were excited about because Duncan had some experience and Childress was about to embark on his senior season. Throughout the season, Duncan became a household name and was competing with one of the best players in ACC history, Rasheed Wallace. This set up for some outstanding matchups between Wake and UNC in which the Deacs took down the Heels in a regular season meeting, 79-70 behind Duncan’s 25 points while he held Wallace to a mere 4. This result held up once again the ACC championship game where Wake beat UNC behind 20 boards from Duncan. The Deacs ended the season in the Sweet 16 where Duncan still snatched 22 rebounds.
Coming out his sophomore season Duncan was projected to go number one in the NBA draft but decided to finish all four years at Wake Forest and get his degree. This was an example of how great a person Duncan would show himself as.
The following year was daunting to many Wake fans because it seemed as if Duncan would be the whole team with Childress graduated. However, Tim showed an unusual confidence in his young teammates and kept giving them shots when they missed the majority of them. During the season, this pattern was continued except for one difference; the shots began to go in. The Deacs repeated as ACC champions against Georgia Tech in a game where Duncan scored 27 points and pulled down 22 rebounds.
During the NCAA tournament that year, Duncan ended up having the flu, but played through it all the way to the Elite 8 where Rick Pitino’s Kentucky squad eliminated the Deacs.
Once again in the off season, everyone wanted to know if Duncan would go pro or stay for his senior season. Without a doubt, he elected to stay at Wake, who were the favorites to win the big dance.
The Deacs earned the highest ranking in school history at number two in the early part of the season. However, much to the disappointment of Wake fans the team failed to win a third straight ACC championship. In the NCAA tournament to favorites at the beginning of the season earned a three seed. The Deacs later ended the year in disappointment to the sixth seed in their region, Stanford. In his final season at Wake Timmy averaged 20.8 points per game and 14.7 rebounds per game making him the Player of the Year in college basketball. This also set him up to be the first overall pick in the NBA draft.
The Spurs had the third best odds to win the draft lottery but nonetheless beat the odds to have the first pick. David Robinson was already a part of the team but was hurt for the majority of the previous season. This worked out well for the franchise as the ended up drafting the best power forward to every play the game of basketball.
The rest is history.