LAS VEGAS – In July 2002, Brett Brown was named to a position with the San Antonio Spurs that wasn't very familiar in the NBA. Given the title of director of player development, Brown was tasked with putting together a schedule for players to work on different areas of their game.
The Spurs had just opened a state-of-the-art practice facility, and Brown's first memory about his old job centered around Tim Duncan, who Monday announced his retirement from the NBA after 19 seasons.
"The first thing I remember was how much and how obvious it was that he loved playing basketball," Brown said. "My job was to organize the gym. I was one of only about three people in the NBA to have that title. Now, every team has two or three people with the title. In August, after summer leagues were over and players started drifting back, Tim was already ready to go. He wanted the gym to be alive and have the ability to play five-on-five. If there were eight people to play, he'd look at me and be pissed that there wasn't 10 . . . I remember that so vividly.
"Timmy just loved to play basketball. We would see him at all hours of the day, 12 at night, 7 in the morning. He would have his headphones on and just shoot, shoot, shoot, all by himself. He is a quiet and private man who led by example instead of his voice. But when he felt he did have to speak, he was selective and terrific at it."
Duncan leaves the game having won five NBA championships, and as a 15-time all-NBA selection and 15-time member of the all-defensive team. His Spurs won 71 percent of their regular-season games, and he earned the rookie of the year award, two NBA MVPs, and three Finals MVPs.
"His dedication to his body is something that not many really understand," Brown said. "Think of it. He played 19 years. He made the playoffs every year, so you're talking about close to 100 games a season. I saw him go from 274 pounds down to 250 when he thought he needed to. He had an unbelievable attention to his diet and his body transformation over the years, which allowed him to stay around as long as he did. And let's be honest, he could still play at a high level for a couple of more seasons if he wanted to."
Brown spoke to Duncan just a couple of days ago and knew of his retirement. It's not a bad time for the NBA, Brown said, but one of fun reflection on one of the all-time greats.
"I remember more than anything, before every playoff series," Brown recalled, "Timmy would go to a whiteboard and put up the number 16 (wins needed to secure the title). And we'd win and he'd walk up and erase it and put 15, and then 14. Four times (when Brown was with the Spurs) he put zero and we won it. He walked down NBA seasons in his head and brought us and himself to a place in May and June to win it again. He's a friend and a good person. He taught me a lot. It's not a sad day, (it's) one of terrific reflection."