With six seconds left in the game and three seconds on the shot clock, the Spurs needed to act quickly if they wanted to break the 86-86 tie against the Utah Jazz last night. Off an inbounds pass under the basket, Kyle Anderson passed to Kawhi Leonard, who was heavily guarded by Gordon Hayward. Without hesitation and a man in his face, Leonard nailed a corner mid-range jumper with a little over four seconds left, giving the Spurs the lead and the eventual victory, 88-86.
In a game where Tim Duncan was seeking his 1,000th career regular season win, it’s fitting that Leonard answered the call to hit that game winner. The new generation of Spurs helping out the old, reassuring them that the torch is in the right hands. An act that has come full circle, with Duncan originally helping David Robinson get his first and second championships and now Leonard helping Duncan try for his sixth.
Over his 19-year NBA career, Duncan has averaged 52.63 wins a season in order to achieve this feat. While he isn’t the first player to reach 1,000 wins (1,074 for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and 1,014 for Robert Parish), he is the first to get all 1,000 wins on the same team and he did it the fastest (1,389 games). Back in November, Duncan passed John Stockton for most wins on a single team, with Stockton having 953 wins during his 19-year career with the Utah Jazz.
“That’s a hell of a lot of wins,” said Patty Mills to ESPN. “I can’t wrap my mind around that at all. That’s pretty incredible. Sacrifice, longevity, loyal, and genuine, I think. I think the word that covers all of that is professionalism. The way he handles and carries himself both on and off the court, I think, is what got him to this point at the moment. It’s a hell of an achievement and one that I’m very fortunate enough to be able to witness and rub shoulders with [him].”
To put some perspective on this, Duncan has more regular season wins than five NBA franchises: the Charlotte Hornets (912), the Minnesota Timberwolves (843), the Toronto Raptors (730), the Memphis Grizzlies (694) and the New Orleans Pelicans (527). (Via Pounding the Rock’s Quixem Ramirez)
While statistically it has been far from his best year, it’s been a season full of accolades for Duncan. In November, Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili became the winningest trio in NBA history, passing the Celtics’ big three of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, who won 540 games together. In March, he became the sixth player in NBA history to reach 15,000 rebounds. As of now, Duncan and Abdul-Jabbar are the only two players to record 25,000 points, 15,000 rebounds and 3,000 blocks. Also in March, Duncan passed John Havlicek for 14th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
The question of Duncan’s retirement has been looming for years now, but this is the first season where his production has taken a significant hit. With banged up knees and averaging career-lows in just about every category (8.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.3 BPG and 25 MPG this season, all career-lows), it feels more so than ever that the finish line is in sight for Duncan.
He’s not done yet though and the Spurs still need his leadership and presence inside the paint in order to finish this season with the franchise’s sixth title. If this is Duncan’s last ride, setting a number of personal records while being an everyday starter on arguably the best team in Spurs’ history is one hell of a way to go out. The only thing that would make it sweeter would be getting that sixth ring before he hangs it all up.