This kind of greatness can’t be reduced to a morality play about max effort and selflessness. The most pleasing Duncan story circulating yesterday had to be the one from Etan Thomas, about how Duncan once blocked his hook shot and immediately began coaching him, in mid-game, on how to adjust his move to avoid getting blocked next time. What kind of player gives tips to an opponent in the heat of competition? A nice one, sure, and maybe a goofy one, if you wish. But mostly a player who is so far beyond everyone else that he doesn’t need to pretend otherwise.


There, too, was the real message of Duncan’s quiet retirement. Letting the Spurs do the work of announcing that he was walking away was not humble, but a sly act of supreme swagger. Let Kobe have the branded retirement logo and the final 61-point chuckfest and the scripted farewell message. Kobe was always needy, scuffling to impress the fans to the end. Duncan didn’t stoop to ask for your approval. He knew what he’d done. If you didn’t appreciate it by now, too bad for you.