DISCLAIMER #1: Nerves have been raw, especially lately, regarding the topic of Tim Duncan. My intent here is not to create controversy, though I recognize that my intentions are irrelevant depending on who's doing the reading. I'll only say, on my own behalf, that I have consistently defended Tim and given him the benefit of the doubt. This particular topic is only somewhat related to his current struggles.
DISCLAIMER #2: This is not an examination of which player was better - I simply want to explore a theme that has come about in recent seasons.
David Robinson and Tim Duncan have been linked in the public's mind for many years and for obvious reasons. Using a casual evaluation, this seems justified: both are/were outstanding, versatile big men with great humility and character. Of course, a closer examination reveals some separation between the two. Robinson was a Naval officer and his bearing reflected that, with his suits and proper posture. Robinson, as is well documented, is a Christian committed to his faith and values. Tim Duncan exudes a more bohemian and carefree lifestyle than Robinson. Duncan's clothing, even in more formal settings, is casual. Duncan is more private than Robinson about his faith and his life.
In their games as well one can discern obvious differences. Robinson was more athlete than ballplayer and relied on matchup advantages for his points. Duncan is a player with a complete skill set who is sometimes overmatched physically. Mentally, Duncan seemed to be better equipped to handle pressure situations than was Robinson.
In 2005-06, Tim Duncan is struggling through the worst season of his professional career. His production is down and this has been the subject of much discussion. There are competing (sometimes concurrent) theories as to why Duncan is struggling. No one will argue that Duncan's nearly season-long battle with plantar faciitis plays a role. Some suggest Duncan is on the wrong side of the peak of his career.
The third theory is the one I would like to discuss here as it relates to David Robinson - the man who preceded Duncan as the centerpiece and face of the franchise:
Duncan's new role as a father has changed his priorities and he is not as committed to basketball as he once was.
David Robinson was faced with the same challenge in his playing career. And we longtime fans can recall those criticisms levelled at Robinson when his teams failed to win the championship: (all together now) He's "soft", he's not a leader, he's not fully committed to basketball.
The idea to that third criticism was that because of Robinson's extensive charity work and ministry, Robinson was spending time that he could have been using honing his game. And like Duncan now, fatherhood was a part of Robinson's life during the peak of his career. At no time that I can recall was it suggested that Robinson's fatherhood was hindering his career. Granted, at that time the internet was comparatively deserted and rumors didn't surface nearly as often then.
So what of Duncan's fatherhood? Duncan has never been criticized for lack of focus on basketball, yet we hear from time to time that Duncan's fatherhood has changed his priorities to a degree.
What do we conclude? Is this talk of Duncan's new responsibility:
B) Completely false?
C) Somewhat on the mark?
D) Accurate but temporary?
I wonder if the trophy photos tell us anything. In 1999 and 2003, we have enduring images of Robinson and Duncan, beaming from ear to ear, holding up the championship trophy and Finals MVP trophy respectively. The signature photo from 2005 shows a weary and unsmiling Tim Duncan holding up both trophies himself.
I thank you for considering my questions and apologize in advance if anything here was unfair in some way.
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