The San Antonio Spurs went on to become one of the most dominant dynasties in NBA history thanks to the quiet assassin, who played a key role despite not receiving as much attention as stars like Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, or Steve Nash.
While his lack of theatrics and calm temperament allowed him to slip under the radar, frequently allowing his game to speak for itself, Duncan fashioned one of the most individually dominant careers, both statistically and in terms of trophies.
Duncan, Garnett, and Bryant will all be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Memorial Hall of Fame this May, marking five years since Duncan’s retirement.
In honour of this milestone, we take a look back at one of the most iconic careers in NBA history, complete with mind-boggling statistics.
Five: NBA Titles
While the Spurs never repeated as winners, they dominated the NBA over Duncan’s 19-year career and won five titles, including his first as Rookie of the Year in 1999.
Since he was drafted, no other player has won more championships than he has (three in 2003, one each in 2005, 2007, and 2014). Within that time frame, only Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, and Robert Horry have as many championships as Duncan’s five.
In three of those championship runs (1999, 2003, 2005), Duncan was awarded Finals MVP, tying him with Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal for the second-most in NBA history. Only LeBron James (4) and Michael Jordan (6) have more (6).
Duncan is the only player in NBA history to win titles in the 1990s, the 2000s, and the 2010s.
26,496: An Exorbitant Number of Points
Duncan, widely regarded as the game’s best power forward, finished his career with 26,496 points to rank 14th all-time in NBA scoring. After Carmelo Anthony passed him in January of 2021, he fell to 15th on the all-time list.
He was a beast in the paint, and his trademark bank shot probably accounted for every one of his points.
In the same way that Nowitzki has the one-legged fadeaway, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has the skyhook, and Hakeem Olajuwon has the Dream Shake, Big Fundamental owns the bank shot.
Duncan’s Best Scoring Output Came in the Form of 53 Points.
In 2001, against the Dallas Mavericks, Duncan scored 50 points in a losing effort (126-123 in overtime).
Duncan carried the Spurs for the entire game and overtime, scoring 53 points on 19-of-28 shooting from the field and 15-of-15 from the free throw line, but the Mavericks ultimately won thanks to a last-second 3-pointer from Steve Nash. He scored 53 points without attempting a 3-pointer, and he also pulled down 11 boards, dished out four assists, and blocked three shots.
It was the highest points scored by a Spurs player since David Robinson had 71 in 1994. Afterwards, both Tony Parker (at age 55 in 2008) and LaMarcus Aldridge (at age 56 in 2019) surpassed Duncan’s total.
15: Focus on Defence First
Duncan’s effect on the defensive end was just as crucial to the Spurs’ success as his scoring prowess, but the former is more easily remembered.
Duncan has been honoured with more NBA All-Defensive Team selections (15) than any player in NBA history by a margin of three trophies. After Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant tie for second with 12 points each.
Only Bryant, Garnett, Gary Payton, and Michael Jordan (each with nine selections) have more First Team nods than Duncan (eight).
Along with Bryant and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, he holds the record for the most All-NBA selections with 15, including 10 First Team votes. Bryant and Karl Malone each have 11, but only LeBron James has 13.
Duncan’s domination during his era earned him a spot on at least one All-NBA squad and one NBA All-Defensive team for a record-setting 13 consecutive seasons. To put that into perspective, Payton is currently in second place with nine consecutive double awards.
Furthermore, he was chosen for 15 All-Star Games, which places him in a tie for fourth all-time.
The Number 50: He Never Loses
During 18 of Duncan’s 19 seasons with the Spurs, they had at least 50 victories. The lone exception was the lockout-shortened 1998–1999 season.
The Spurs won 37 of their 82 games that season, for a winning percentage of 74% and an overall record of 60 victories.
That year, they would go on to defeat the New York Knicks 4-1 in the Finals and claim the title.
Twenty-Nine: Number of Seasons with the Spurs
Duncan was the model of what it meant to be a franchise cornerstone from a No. 1 overall draught pick in this era of free agency and player movement.
To this day, Duncan is tied with Utah Jazz great John Stockton for the third-longest stint with a single team in NBA history (19 years).
Among active NBA players, only Dirk Nowitzki (21) and Kobe Bryant (20) have spent more than ten years with a single franchise.
When Duncan was drafted in 1997, he immediately made an impression on the team. With Duncan on board, the Spurs went from 20 wins the year before (thanks mostly to David Robinson’s injury) to 56 wins the following year, the second-largest improvement in wins by a club in NBA history.
The Winning Percentage is 71.
The Spurs’ regular-season win percentage since selecting Duncan is 71%, which is both an incredible feat and a testimony to his steadiness.
His lifetime winning percentage is the highest of any player in NBA history, and his 19-year winning streak is the longest in league annals. Surprisingly, it’s the best in the four major North American sports as well (NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB).
With Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili, Team 701 has a Formidable Big 3.
Although Duncan was the driving force behind the Spurs’ success, his partnership with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili is also worthy of mention.
Together, the three players set an NBA record with 701 victories (575 regular season games and 126 postseason contests).
In the NBA, a team with 126 postseason victories would be ranked 15th. That’s right; you’ve spotted the error. More NBA teams have lost in the playoffs than Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili have combined to win.
251: Total Number of Playoff Games
You won’t find many athletes that can say they made the playoffs every single year they played professionally.
True, but Duncan did exactly that.
Duncan participated in 251 postseason games, more than 15 NBA clubs combined.
After Derek Fisher (259 games) and LeBron James (260 games), Duncan has played the third-most playoff games in NBA history. Only James (10,811) has played more playoff minutes than Duncan (9,370).
Duncan shot 50.1% from the floor and averaged 20.6 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 3.0 assists in 37.3 minutes across 251 postseason games.
As of now, he sits atop the all-time lists for postseason double-doubles (164) and blocks (568), while also placing third in playoff rebounds (2,859) and sixth in playoff points (5,172).