When I was a kid, my favorite baseball players were Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice of the Red Sox, but in the National League, it was Willie Stargell. Great hitters. One team guys.
When we said goodbye to them at the end of their careers, it was goodbye. Not like now, when you have the heartache of getting beat by the guy you rooted for last year. We pretend it doesn’t hurt.
It wasn’t unusual to stay in one city, and not because you were stuck there. Mike Schmidt was a Phillie, but could’ve gone anywhere. Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell were career-long team-mates in Detroit, when it was not easy to be a Tiger. Premier QBs like Staubach and Elway. Tons of NHL players too.
I get why that changed, and I’m not kvetching, but it makes Tim Duncan’s run here in San Antonio special. Guys don’t do it that way anymore.
In fact, the more I think about his retirement, the more I think we may not see his kind again. One city. No off-season drama. Zen-like focus and contentment. He was happy here. He would’ve been happy anywhere.
Watching him play basketball reminds you of whoever taught you to play the game. Fundamental. Not selfish. Pass. Help your team mates. Win with everyone, not a solo act. Practice. You make a basket, you get down the other end. Not look around to see if everyone, or anyone, noticed. Your postgame interview was your game. What I did out there, yeah, that’s my statement. Genial to fans, but not trying too hard. Generous when no one’s looking. Not a clown, but humble and humorous enough to make those ridiculous yet lovable HEB commercials. And look at the camera like, can you believe we’re doing this?
Come to think of it, maybe we will see his kind again. I thought his kind was gone 20 years ago, but suddenly, there he was. Maybe being Tim Duncan is the dream, to some kid messing around after school, a hoop over the garage door. I specifically wanted to be Yaz.
Probably someone, somewhere, on a playground or driveway, specifically wants to be Tim. Good luck, kid.