San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich isn’t one to display much emotion or get overly attached to anyone or anything, but the relationship he and Tim Duncan have is a special one. The two won more games together than any player-coach duo in NBA history (1,001), and were a big reason the Spurs have long been one of the best teams in the Western Conference, winning five titles along the way as well.
Duncan announced his retirement Monday after playing 19 years in the league—all of them as a member of the Spurs—and Popovich opened up about the type of person he is both on and off the court in a media session on Tuesday.
“It’s not Tim Duncan to bring any attention to himself,” he said. “We’ve been saying it for 19 years and he really only cared about doing the best job he could basketballwise and being who he was for his teammates and being somebody who loved his family. That’s really who he is. So this is the furthest thing from his mind.”
— Jabari Young (@JabariJYoung) July 12, 2016
He even compared Duncan to renowned chef Anthony Bourdain, as the two were both long underrated and didn’t go out of the way to boast or brag about themselves. Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal said Duncan “hid in plain sight” in a recent piece, and that seemed to really resonate with Pop, who confirmed it. He then compared Duncan to Bourdain for how they embarked on their respective career paths.
“I just tried to think of somebody like that,” he remarked. “I’m a foodie, I’m a food and wine guy and the name that popped into my head was Anthony Bourdain. Nobody knew who the hell he was, except foodies. After he wrote his first book he became popular and all of a sudden he’s on CNN. He’s doing these travel shows—everybody says who is this guy? He’s been there all along. You just didn’t notice him in the beginning. It’s been that way with Timmy. Greatest player in his position that ever stepped on the court.”
Popovich also called Duncan “irreplaceable,” which is certainly true. A player of Duncan’s caliber simply can’t be replaced—Pop hit the nail on the head there.