By Eddy Montilla.
If Cain killed Abel, according to the very famous Bible story, “Mr. Money” killed loyalty and sporting spirit. Today, when we cannot enjoy Tim Duncan’s presence on the basketball court, people remember his feat: five championships with San Antonio Spurs, which is very difficult to achieve, considering that Michael Jordan, for many the best basketball player ever, had only one ring more than Duncan. But an athlete’s greatness cannot be judged or valued by the number of rings only. Otherwise, Bill Russel in basketball and Yogi Berra in baseball should be called “The Lords of the rings with eleven and ten respectively. Then, what attributes did Tim Duncan have to be considered a unique player in modern age?
Duncan jumped over the high fences that his five championships built in terms of greatness and went beyond because other players perceive themselves as wage-earners for a professional sport while he was a professional person for the sport of basketball. To be a professional player in basketball means money and fame for many; for Duncan, however, it meant loyalty, commitment and sacrifice.
The ongoing identity crisis in sports is the result of the wrong idea today’s athletes have about their job: “I have to earn as many millions of dollars as possible with a team or I will sell myself to the highest bidder”, one of the reason why we do not know the players of a team at the beginning of the season since they are jumping from team to team like a spring. Lebron James can sacrifice anything except for his exorbitant salary. His millions of dollars are like that famous movie: “The untouchables”. Tim Duncan went in exactly the opposite direction by accepting big cuts in his salary as long as San Antonio Spurs could be competitive for years as they have been. When other players want to jump to professionalism as soon as possible because of Mr. Money, Duncan showed commitment and loyalty to his college team, Wake Forest, a team that opened the door to a boy (Duncan) coming from Virgin Islands who was a swimmer rather than a basketball player. He did the same with Spurs during his successful career for 19 years. And, in the twilight of his sporting career, he was unselfish enough to pass the torch to others, like David Robinson once did.
For today’s professional players only two things matter: Fame and money. They can go without the first one, but never without the second one. If, for a moment, you think about how Tim Duncan put all these things aside to focus his attention on his team and championships, you will conclude in similar terms as we did in this article: Tim Duncan was some kind of a little corner filled with fresh air inside a polluted city.
This article was originally published in the digital newspaper World And Opinion.
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