I live and go to school in Austin. And, with San Antonio being a little more than an hour away from here, I'm surrounded by Spurs fans. In fact, most of my friends and co-workers are all avid Spurs supporters.
So when Tim Duncan decided to retire Monday, it felt bizarre, even being a Mavs fan. The man that has been near the center of a lot of my basketball pain, jealousy and rage just gone. No farewell tour, no Player's Tribune article. Just, gone.
Now before I decided to live and go to school in Austin, I came here on plenty of family vacations when I was younger. We've got family that lives in the area and, sure enough, they're all Spurs fans. For nearly my entire basketball-watching life, I endured all of the taunts that come with being a Mavs fan. Four rings to none! (Or, more recently, five rings to one). Timmy is better than Dirk No-win-ski! Hell, after the Spurs won the 2007 title in the wake of the Mavs' first-round exit to the 'We Believe Warriors,' they sent us a package. It was a Warriors t-shirt.
And here's the thing, you couldn't really argue with any of that. All I wanted was for the Mavs and Dirk to have the same success Duncan and the Spurs did. It was pure jealousy of what they had that we didn't, mostly.
If you looked closely, you could see how Dirk and the Mavs almost had that. Dirk and Duncan are generational big men that have been with one team their entire career. But with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, Duncan always had the better supporting cast. Perhaps that could've been different had Dallas kept Steve Nash way back when.
Both sacrificed money during the final years of their career. But the Spurs were ready for this day. They brought in Kawhi Leanord. They brought in LaMarcus Aldridge. And they kept the core together. The Mavs blew up their core in 2011 and struck out summer after summer on free agents. It just seemed like no matter what, Duncan could do no wrong and Dirk and the Mavs were left watching.
I don't remember much of the 2001 or 2003 series between the Mavs and Spurs. But I remember 2006. I remember Marv Albert saying "Nowitzki goes right at Bowen...AND THE FOUL!" Finally, we got Tim and the Spurs. Finally, it was our team to catch up in the ring chase. Then the Finals happened, but dammit we finally got the Spurs.
I remember watching the Spurs win the 2007 title, thinking that should be ours.
Perhaps nothing frustrated me more than 2010. It was the No. 2 Mavs vs. No. 7 Spurs in the first round. A blockbuster trade for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson had propelled the Mavs to 55 wins. Pundits had the Mavs going to Western Conference Finals to play the defending champion Lakers. This was the year!
I went to Game 1 in Dallas. Dirk dropped 36 points while Duncan had 27. It was a classic Dirk/Duncan duel that the Mavs won 100-94. This was the year!
The Mavs lost the series 4-2, and I legitimately thought Dirk was going to leave in free agency. Tim Duncan won again.
But the Mavs won the title in 2011 after the Spurs, for once, lost in the first round. But here we sit, five years later. Duncan is retiring after winning his fifth ring in 2014, and playing on a 55-60 win team in his twilight years. Meanwhile, Dirk just re-signed with the Mavericks and will be asked to drag them to the playoffs yet again. My jealousy rages on.
I'm happy we got one more duel between the two in 2014, when the Dirk/Monta Ellis Mavs took Duncan and the Spurs to seven games. I'm not going to miss being tormented by Tim Duncan at all. But I will miss watching him and Dirk go at it four times a year, and in a potential playoff series.
I don't know that I ever HATED Tim Duncan. I think I hated what he represented to me as a Mavericks fan. If the Mavericks were Batman, he and the Spurs were the Joker. Almost every time it felt like the Mavericks' time, he was there to make sure it wasn't. He was beloved as a quiet, classy superstar that stayed with one team in Texas. But we had one of those, too. He was everything I thought Dirk and the Mavs would become.
And now, he's just gone.