The NBA lost one of its all-time great players the other day when, after 19 years with the San Antonio Spurs, five-time champ Tim Duncan decided his body couldn’t handle anymore seasons in the league and called it quits.
With Duncan’s announcement has come some tremendous respect and even better stories, with Spurs GM R.C. Buford giving another one today while talking to The Vertical’s podcast about how close The Big Fundamental almost came to leaving San Antonio as a free agent during the 2000 offseason to the Orlando Magic.
“Well we probably couldn’t have screwed it up worse than we did. We spent years preparing for that time. We were approaching the end of an era. Avery Johnson was at an age where he was older, Sean Elliott, Mario Elie, the guys who were with Tim in that first championship were coming to an end to their career. And Orlando at the time had draft picks, and Disneyland, and a very bright picture.
“And I think we focused more on trying to convince him that Orlando wasn’t the place for him than we focused on who we were. And the meeting we shared with Tim was a disaster. I mean, I walked out of it [saying], ‘We blew it.’ What saved us was Pop and Tim’s relationship and their trust.”
Some may not remember, but that was the offseason that the Magic wined and dined both Duncan and fellow All-Star Grant Hill—who they ended up signing—hoping to build a super team before it was trendy.
The entire interview with Buford is pretty interesting, so you can peep it below.
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As a hoops fan, I’m glad the Spurs didn’t blow it too badly that Duncan left, because it’s pretty cool, and rare, that he played his entire career with just one franchise.