Posted June 13, 2013

Is Tim Duncan the most consistently dominant player of the last 15 years?

Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Rob Mahoney, Tim Duncan
Is Tim Duncan the most dominant player of the last 15 years?

A four-time champion, Tim Duncan ranks ninth all time in blocks and 14th in rebounds. (Greg Nelson/SI)

In some years, the lead-up to the NBA Finals drips with animosity. Opposing players do their best to hide their disdain for one another with curt, generic responses in press scrums. Networks run prepackaged clips of heated exchanges or hard fouls between the two teams, and talk of rivalry supersedes most other basketball discussion. The notion of competitors empowered by hatred is both intriguing and marketable, and thus tends to become the predominant storyline in any series between real or presumed adversaries.

This is not one of those years. Most of the pre-Finals media appearances from the Heat and Spurs have oozed with respect. Take this quote from LeBron James, who spoke incredibly highly of Tim Duncan and his place in NBA history on Monday, as transcribed by ASAP Sports (via Eye on Basketball):

If I just look at the last 15 years, he’s probably been the most consistent, most dominant player that we’ve had as far as 15 years all together. He’s won four titles, multiple All-Stars, MVP, and so on and so on. I think he doesn’t get a lot of recognition because he’s not flashy like a lot of guys are.  He’s not jumping over people and high‑flying and doing the things that attracts people to the game. But I think true basketball, true IQ people, players know how great he is. What else can you say?

James’ comments prompt an interesting thought exercise: Which NBA player has been the most consistently dominant over the past 15 years? There are many who have played spectacular ball for a portion of that 15-year window (James included), but if we narrow the field down to only those who have dominated the bulk of that stretch, four reasonable candidates emerge: Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki. Shaquille O’Neal comes close, but the fact that he’s missed the past two seasons entirely and hadn’t played at a star level since 2009 hurts his case.

Of those four candidates, Nowitzki would likely earn the low run by way of a shaky rookie season and defensive deficit. But a viable argument could be made for Duncan, Bryant, or Garnett, each of whom has embodied two-way excellence through the majority of that 15-year window. Who would you pick?

15 comments
SteveCowan
SteveCowan

Duncan takes his teams, makes everyone better players, without demanding the ball or the headlines.  If that's not greatness, what is?  Kobe, who often pouts?  Dirk, who occasionally loafs on D?  Garnett who plays mean, vicious?  I'll take Duncan's class and leadership any day when building my team.

Now, if you let me reach into the 'way back' machine, no one beats Magic!

StacyHutchens
StacyHutchens

No Shaq?? Shaq is easily the most dominant of the last 15 years.......

CubanMustGo
CubanMustGo

Garnett and Dirk aren't close to Duncan and Kobe.

tweener8292
tweener8292

Shaquille O'Neal nailed it:  "The Big Fundamental".  

DSM
DSM

Mentioning Garnett in the company of Duncan and Bryant is absurd. Duncan is much better both offensively and defensively and his teams have won more finals than Garnett has been in semifinals.

And think how many rings either Duncan or Bryant would have had the other not been in the way.

John64
John64

A huge part of this equation is that Duncan is simply not hated by as many people as Kobe is.  Kobe plays for the NBA's version of the love-to-hate-'em Yankees, he cheated on his wife, and he comes across as a ball-hogging primadonna to many people.  Whereas Duncan is the consummate respected pro.

JonathanD
JonathanD

Duncan: 3 Finals MVPs
Kobe: 2 Finals MVPs

Duncan: 2 regular season MVPs and 2 second-place finishes
Kobe: 1 regular season MVP and 1 second-place finish

AaronDunckel
AaronDunckel

@CubanMustGo Kobe has been consistent, but his teams have not been consistently dominant like Duncan's have.  Hes not in the same league as Duncan

trabbani
trabbani

@CubanMustGo Dirk took a weaker team and beat Duncan's spurs in a game 7 in San Antonio, dropping 37/15 on all NBA defensive players.  Not sure how it's not close.

GuitarnalKnowledge
GuitarnalKnowledge

@JonathanD 

Plus, Duncan is really the consummate team player. Kobe plays team basketball like it's a dirty word. Then again, I'm a Trailblazer fan so I know I'm biased.

AaronDunckel
AaronDunckel

@trabbani @StacyHutchens the article also immediately discounts Shaq as well... shaq hasn't been as dominant over the last several years, but when he was in his prime years, there wasn't a more dominant player in the league