March 15, 2010
I'm not sure which is harder to imagine: the San Antonio Spurs without Tim Duncan(notes) or Tim Duncan wearing any other jersey but the Spurs' silver and black. But according to the San Antonio Express-News, that alternate reality was just a few twists of fate away.
San Antonio didn't see Tim Duncan as anything special the last time Texas played Wake Forest in the NCAA tournament. Then, in 1996, the Spurs were doing well with a healthy David Robinson, and they were in no position to draft the promising Wake Forest junior.
What followed did matter. Duncan squeezed past UT then, only to later lose to Kentucky.
With that elimination, with another Final Four denied, Duncan had more motivation to stay in school - and enter the draft when the Spurs weren't doing so well.
Had he entered that year's draft (1996), Duncan likely would have still been the number one pick. That means he would have ended up in Philadelphia, paired with Jerry Stackhouse(notes), rather than in San Antonio a year later where he teamed up with David Robinson to win a title.
Obviously that's a huge change for the 76ers and Spurs franchises, but think of all the other consequences of Tim Duncan entering the 1996 draft. Here are some hypotheticals:
- Allen Iverson(notes) ends up in Vancouver. Since Toronto already had reigning Rookie of the Year Damon Stoudamire(notes), there's no need for the Raptors to draft another tiny scoring point guard. Young Allen Iverson in Vancouver, with their lax marijuana laws, would have been a disaster.
- Without Duncan to gun for, maybe the 1996-97 Spurs don't tank the season once Robinson gets hurt. Keith Van Horn(notes) isn't that big of a prize. If Duncan doesn't end up in San Antonio, the Spurs don't win four titles in nine years.
- Tim Duncan in the East as a 76er means that Kevin Garnett(notes) has no one to battle with for the majority of his career. The Spurs eliminated the Timberwolves twice in the playoffs while Garnett was in Minnesota.
- Maybe Tony Parker(notes) doesn't join the Spurs due to them having lower draft picks from having a worse record because of no Duncan. Maybe then he doesn't marry Eva Longoria because he's not an All-Star. And maybe "Desperate Housewives" gets canceled because Eva Longoria isn't as famous without her athlete husband. These are far-reaching effects.
- Finally, we'd never get to see the amazing shaving commercial that Duncan and Robinson did together. That would be the biggest loss.
Those are just a handful of the literally thousands of things that would be different had Tim Duncan not had the flu in 1996. My life wouldn't be the same without that commercial, so I'm glad Tim Duncan got sick. But it's funny to think how the littlest things can have long-lasting effects. Ashton Kutcher should make a movie about it.