SAN ANTONIO — For the first time in 23 years, there won’t be a Spurs player in the NBA All-Star Game.
But the franchise still had its moment of glory Friday afternoon when Tim Duncan, arguably the greatest power forward in basketball history, made the list of eight finalists for this year’s Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Duncan, the cornerstone of the Spurs’ five championship teams, the late Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett are locks to make the Hall in their first year of eligibility. Former WNBA star Tamika Catchings, also eligible for the first time, is another finalist.
Previous finalists who are up for consideration again are Baylor women's coach Kim Mulkey, who has led three teams to NCAA national titles; five-time Division II National Championship Coach of the Year Barbara Stefvens; four-time National Coach of the Year Eddie Sutton; and two-time NBA championship coach Rudy Tomjanovich.
The finalists, selected by the North American and women’s committees, were announced Friday afternoon in a news conference at the United Center in Chicago, site of the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday.
The Class of 2020 will be announced at the Final Four, scheduled April 4-6 in Atlanta, and enshrined Aug. 29 at the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon, one of the WNBA’s best point guards during a 16-year career that included eight seasons with the San Antonio Stars, was among the Hall nominees who didn't make the list of finalists.
Hammon has been a Spurs assistant coach since 2014, and Duncan is in his first season on coach Gregg Popovich’s staff.
Duncan, Bryant and Garnett left indelible marks on the game, combining for 11 NBA championships, 48 All-Star selections and 86,210 regular-season points.
"When you look at it, as much as I battled against Kobe, as much as I battled against Timmy (Duncan), it's only right that we all kind of share the stage together," Garnett said during the news conference. "I'm more than happy to not only represent us, but be up here as one of them."
Always one to shun the spotlight, Duncan did not attend the news conference.
Duncan, 43, was selected by the Spurs with the No. 1 overall pick of the NBA Draft in 1997. A two-time league MVP and three-time Finals MVP, Duncan played 19 seasons with San Antonio before retiring in the summer of 2016.
Duncan is the Silver and Black’s all-time leader in points (26,496), rebounds (15,091), blocks (3,020), minutes (47,368) and games (1,392). In league history, he’s fifth in double-doubles (841) and blocks, sixth in rebounding and 14th in scoring.
The most celebrated player in Spurs history, Duncan was a 15-time All-NBA selection, tied for most all time with Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James, and 15-time All-Star. Duncan also made the All-Defensive Team a record 15 times. He averaged 19.0 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.1 blocks and 34.0 minutes in the regular season during his career.
Duncan played in 251 playoff games, No. 2 all time, and averaged 20.6 points, 11.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 37.3 minutes.
Duncan played at Wake Forest for four seasons and was college basketball’s player of the year as a senior (1996-97). Given today’s times, Duncan probably will be the last basketball star to stay in college for four seasons before going on to become a franchise player in the NBA.
One of the NBA’s most understated stars, Duncan endeared himself to his teammates, coaches and fans with his humility. A consummate team player, Duncan became the Spurs’ undisputed leader after David Robinson retired in 2003.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Charlotte coach James Borrego, who served two different stints (2003-2010, 2015-18) as an assistant coach with the Spurs. “The humility, the transparency. Every loss, he took on his shoulders.
“Every win, he praised the people around him. That’s rare in today’s NBA culture. People want the praise. They want the spotlight on them. He never wanted it. He deflected it to his teammates and coaches and the organization.”
In a nutshell, Duncan was all about winning. The Spurs reflected that mindset, going 1,072-438 during his career. The .710 winning percentage is the best 19-year stretch in league history.
Duncan’s low-key demeanor on and off the court defined him and reflected the Silver and Black’s culture. True to his understated personality, Duncan didn't give way to his emotions when his jersey number was retired and raised to the rafters at the AT&T Center on Dec. 19, 2016.
Duncan's eyes grew misty at times, especially when he talked about his relationship with Popovich, but he made it through his remarks without breaking down.
Most of the fans who were at the AT&T Center to watch the Spurs roll to a 113-100 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans remained in their seats to see the franchise retire Duncan's No. 21.
Duncan spoke for only a little more than four minutes.
"To all of you in here in the stands, all of San Antonio, thank you," Duncan said. "The love and support is overwhelming, especially over the last couple of weeks. . . I got so much more from you guys, from my teammates, from these guys over here (former teammates) than they can explain that they got from me, and I know that."
Among the people Duncan thanked was former Wake Forest basketball coach Dave Odom, who spoke during the ceremony. Odom coached Duncan for four seasons.
"To my coaches, Coach Odom, who gave me an opportunity, some kid in the (Virgin) Islands who shouldn't be here, but he gave me a chance," Duncan said haltingly.
Then Duncan thanked Popovich and then-Spurs general manager R.C. Buford, who have built a franchise renowned for its consistency.
"To R.C. and Pop, we're all part of a puzzle," Duncan said. "You guys put it together."
Duncan spoke poignantly about Popovich, who has coached all five of the Spurs' championship teams.
"Thank you, Coach Pop for being more than a coach," Duncan said.
With his voice catching, he added: "For being more like a father to me."
Then he walked to Popovich and they shared a hug.
Earlier in the ceremony, Popovich became emotional when he talked about what it was like to coach Duncan.
"He's an enigma in some ways," Popovich said. "You think Kawhi Leonard doesn't talk much. When Timmy first got here, it was like mental telepathy. I would say something to him and he would stare. I wasn't sure if he was paying attention. He was a great collegian, and played at a great program, so I'm figuring he understands what I'm saying.
'Finally, I realize he understood everything that I was saying, probably agreed with about half of it, but he's so respectful that he wouldn't say anything until later. He won't do it in front of the team and sometimes I'd be merciless."
With his voice cracking, Popovich had to pause to get the words out.
"And for that, I'm very thankful because you allowed me to coach the team," Popovich said. "If your superstar can take a little hit now and then, everybody else can shut the hell up and fall in line. That man did that for me. He allowed me to coach.”