Tim Duncan wears a pretty nerdy Punisher knee brace

For as great as he is at playing basketball, Tim Duncan has never been a favorite of the casual NBA fan. That's because of his game, for one thing, but also that he's never seemed totally psyched about letting fans into his world. He's a craftsman, not an artist, and he's perfectly content to do a job well and let the work speak for itself. If you think he's boring, ask yourself if you'd consider your local locksmith or shoe repairman boring.

Every so often, Duncan lets his personally show through, such as in the fairly funny ads for Texas supermarket HEB. He's also quite into nerd culture. For instance, check out the photo above (via Pounding the Rock and TBJ) of Duncan's knee brace airbrushed with an image of the Marvel superhero The Punisher. If you're unfamiliar with The Punisher's backstory, he's a man named Frank Castle who became a vengeance-mad vigilante when his family was murdered. His superpowers are essentially being really angry and carrying a big gun. What's not to like?

This seems like the kind of knee brace you'd see at a comic book shop, not an NBA arena, but it's just the kind of guy Duncan is. He also has a tattoo of the wizard Merlin on his back and plays Dungeons & Dragons, so clearly he's not afraid to let everyone know he's into things most athletes associate with the four-eyed kid from homeroom. Why, then, has this side of Duncan never made it into the mainstream?

The easy answer is that he doesn't want it to be out there. And yet Duncan did in fact star in several national ads in his first few years in the league, so clearly he's not totally averse to getting media attention. What's more likely is that Duncan's personality, as nerdy as it is, was decided to be too out there for a basketball star. His media anonymity might not have been self-imposed, but rather decided by the companies who need to project a particular image when they hire athletes as endorsers.

That's fine, obviously: Duncan's doing fine for himself. But it's a reminder that what we know of players' personalities often isn't decided entirely by them. Sometimes it's up to the corporate gatekeepers who decide which players fit their needs.

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