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For someone who will retire as one of the 10 greatest players in NBA history, we know little of Tim Duncan's life off the basketball court, but we are aware he loves paintball. And that too he dominates.
We first learned of the legend of Duncan's paintball prowess in a Sports Illustrated piece penned by Chris Ballard from 2012, when we discovered the San Antonio Spurs is all about that Bob Lee Swagger.
O.K., it's a toss-up as to how this will make you feel about Duncan: Did he once invite a bunch of teammates to a paintball course even though most had never played paintball? Perhaps. Did Duncan then stack his team with ringers and bring his own high-powered paintball gun? Maybe. Did he give certain players such as Danny Ferry guns that, according to Ferry, "were bent and shot six feet to the left every time"? There's a chance. And did Duncan then take great delight in hunting down his teammates, chasing the pale, balding, shorts-wearing Ferry until he was in close range, at which point Duncan unleashed a hail of water-soluble hellfire upon the man? It's possible.
Ferry may have been the first to feel Duncan's wrath, but he most certainly wasn't the last. In an article on the five-time NBA champion's relationship with future Hall of Fame coach Gregg Popovich, ESPN.com's Marc Stein informed us of Duncan's custom-made paintball gun collection and a posse he named "Team Wolfpack," which for a time included former Spurs guard Michael Finley — he of four different 40 percent seasons from 3-point range — who was once schooled in sharpshooting by his erstwhile teammate.
"He invited the whole team out for paintball once, but I had never played. I called him to ask him what we have to wear. He said long pants and a long-sleeve shirt 'so it can protect you from the paint.' But he showed up in a tank top, shorts and knee pads. When I asked him why, he said: 'Well, I'm not gonna get hit.'
"It's the most I've ever seen him talk strategy. He had special guns. I was like, 'Wow.' I had never seen that side of him. ... I don't think he'll ever grow out of that as long as his body is able to do it."
In the Alamo's shadow, Duncan's firepower has achieved mythical status matched only by Davy Crockett, and former Spur Stephen Jackson added to the legend on Wednesday's "Grantland Basketball Hour."
"We were playing paintball. Tim likes paintball guns. He likes to play paintball, and it's hard to believe a guy who's that tall is the best hider in paintball. We were not supposed to be playing paintball. We were in training camp, and we snuck out. Pop actually told us not to go. It was two days before camp, and we went anyway. It was all Tim's idea, if you can believe this — Tim's idea to go against Pop.
"So, we go, and I'm one of those guys who's not afraid to get shot at. I've been shot at many times in real life, so paintball bullets didn't bother me at all, right? I was running, and I didn't mind getting hit. It was a game of grab the flag. I have to run up to the flag. I was new to the game, so I didn't know that you could actually have a mask that doesn't fog up. I didn't know that. I was just an action junkie. I'm running out there to go get the flag, and my mask fogs up. I have to go up the steps, so I slip on the first step, hit my mouth, blood just starts shooting everywhere, so I put my mask down, and I'm trying to run off the field and I'm just holding my mouth. I'm just getting shot, and I'm trying to tell people, 'Stop, stop,' but I'm getting shot the whole way.
"So, as I get there, I take off my mask, and Tim's like, 'Oh, how am I going to tell Pop?' My lip is just huge. I'm talking about huge, and Tim's like, 'How am I going to tell Pop? How am I going to tell Pop?' So, we made up something. I was at the club or something. We made up some excuse where nobody was around but me, and I took one for the team."
There are so many fantastic tidbits to this story it's hard to single out any one in particular, but all I can picture is Duncan's 6-foot-11, 248-pound frame clearly sticking out every which way behind a thin post and Jackson having an impossible time seeing him — like Lois Lane failing to see behind Clark Kent's glasses. The "Leave it to Beaver" subplot — with Duncan metaphorically trying to fix the broken window before Pop gets home — is also fantastic. It's all fun and games until Cap'n Jack bleeds everywhere.
And how about Jackson dropping a reference to the real-life gunfire in his past like it ain't no thing?
Anyhow, at least we now know Tim Duncan is basically the Tim Duncan of paintballing, and don't be shocked if there's a "Zero Dark Thirty" sequel in the works — "Zero Dark 21: The Demon Deacon."
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