When Tim Duncan is compared to the best centers to ever play in the NBA he is usually ranked close to the top. When Duncan is compared to the best power forwards of all time he is often judged to be at the very top of the list.
Collectors can compare Tim Duncan basketball cards with his contemporaries in the paint and Duncan nearly always wins due to his championships, recognition from those who follow the game closely and his amazing and consistent statistics.
Karl Malone, with 36,928 points scored during his career, may have been thought of as the best power forward of all time, although Baylor, McHale , Barkley and others would have had their fans if there was a vote. Duncan, however, has surpassed The Mailman in many areas. Parker to Duncan won titles, Stockton to Malone ran into Jordan and Pippen and Rodman and didn’t win titles.
At 38, the length of Duncan’s high level play is astonishing. When Duncan entered the NBA in 1997, Michael Jordan was the MVP while Dennis Rodman was the top rebounder. Both have long since retired. Not only was Duncan the best player from the draft in ‘97, he has played longer than the players selected then despite also playing four years at Wake Forest. Keith Van Horn was the second pick that year, but Duncan has played in more than twice as many NBA games as KVH did.
That he stayed with one team throughout his NBA career makes Duncan a loyal and rare player, although for some card collectors that is a reason why he isn’t hugely popular. Most superstar centers, and power forwards, found their way to the Lakers or other large market teams and a lot more publicity. He was never close to following them out of San Antonio, but there was some talk in the offseason of 2000 that the Magic could sign both Duncan and Grant Hill. That could have made Duncan a player with only one title, as Orlando couldn’t add pieces to their team with Hill and his bad ankles filling up the salary cap.
Duncan has now won titles with the Spurs in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014. There is nothing wrong with four NBA championships, but five puts Duncan into an exclusive club. He now has have one more than Shaq, as many as George Mikan, Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant and is just one behind Kareem and Jordan.
Will one more championship change how basketball card collectors view Duncan? A Hall of Fame lock when he is eligible, winning a championship late in one’s career often catapults a player to a new level (see John Elway).
There are collectors who have been accumulating Duncan cards from the moment he was drafted by the Spurs. Since then the card companies making official NBA cards have changed, Duncan’s teammates have all changed, countries have merged or been created, presidents have come and gone, San Antonio has changed arenas, but Gregg Popovich is still the coach and Duncan can still get 20 points, 10 rebounds and a couple of blocks a night.
In honor of his uniform number but in no particular order, here are 21 Tim Duncan rookie cards to collect. Some can be had for a buck or two; others will cost you more–if you can find them. Click the links to see them on eBay. Below that is a list of the current ‘most watched’ Duncan cards.
1997-98 Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems Emerald #66
1997-98 Ultra Platinum Medallion #131
1997-98 Fleer Tiffany Collection #201
1997-98 Collector’s Choice Star Attractions #SA11
1997-98 Metal Universe Championship Future Champions #1