These days, Spurs fans have to basically be running around San Antonio feeling like the dog in that picture up there. In addition to the ongoing celebration of the NBA Championship that the team brought home a little over a week ago, one of the biggest question marks that the team faced as it glanced a cautious eye toward the 2015 season—namely, the fate of franchise-face star Tim Duncan. The 38 year old five-time champion would be fully justified in ending his impressive career on the highest of high notes, with his fifth ring secured and his legacy as one of the defining players of his generation firmly in place. But since when does Tim Duncan care about what people think?
As ESPN reports, Duncan’s contract allowed him to take a $10.3 million payday from the Spurs, to become a free agent, or to retire. While free agency seemed a highly unlikely prospect (unless it was to receive a new contract from the Spurs), retirement for a player Duncan’s age was certainly not out of the realm of possibility:
Tim Duncan has decided to continue his career for an 18th season with the San Antonio Spurs and has exercised his $10.3 million player option for next season, the team announced Monday.
After winning his fifth NBA title this month, Duncan said he was undecided on his future. He had until Tuesday to pick up his option or opt to become a free agent on July 1. There was some discussion about working out a new contract for Duncan, but he elected to stay in his deal.
Duncan, 38, had a strong season, averaging 15.1 points and 9.7 rebounds in 74 regular-season games and then putting up 16.3 points and 9.2 rebounds over 23 playoff games.
$10.3 million is a fine reason to lace up the sneakers for another year, of course, but Duncan’s performance on the court in 2014 marked him as virtually ageless, and while he’ll be a year away from 40 before the end of the 2015 season, a Spurs team that’s still built around Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili—along with everybody’s new favorite, Kawhi Leonard—has to remain a strong contender for the title next year, too.
Retirement is a part of sports, and Duncan is obviously nearing the end of his career, but the fact that this team is going to remain more or less intact for yet another year—the 18th that Duncan will have played for Gregg Popovich’s Spurs—is exciting news. How Duncan will choose to celebrate (another order of waffle fries at Chick-Fil-A?) remains to be seen, but there are presumably a lot of people in San Antonio squirting some chocolate syrup into their milk today.