For thousands, if not millions of years natural disasters have occurred on planet Earth causing humans to adapt and adjust to devastating aftermaths. In September of 1989, Hurricane Hugo swept through the Caribbean - causing over 10 billion dollars in damage and killing over 100 people. Hugo affected millions of lives, but one of the most notable to have been affected by its devastation was Tim Duncan.  

Duncan retired from the NBA this past Monday after 19 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, where he won five NBA championships, two Most Valuable Player awards, three NBA Finals MVP awards and an NBA Rookie of the Year award. Not a bad career. Duncan will undoubtedly be a first ballot Hall of Famer and is known by his peers and predecessors as the greatest power forward ever to play the game. But we may have never met Big Timmy had Hurricane Hugo not ravaged his native Virgin Islands.

Prior to Hugo rearing its head, Duncan had aspirations to follow in the footsteps of his older sister, Tricia, who was a swimmer and had represented the Virgin Islands in the 100- and 200-meter backstroke in the 1988 Olympics. But after Hugo destroyed the only Olympic-size swimming pool on the island, Duncan’s swim team was forced to move its practices to the ocean. Just so has it that Duncan was afraid of sharks, and decided that it was in his best interest to switch to another sport. Duncan would turn to his brother-in-law, who had played basketball in college, and he proceeded to teach him the game. The rest is history.

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Fast forward to 2016 and the impact that Duncan has left on the game of basketball is astronomical. The humble Duncan brought integrity to the NBA when it needed it most. The NBA in the late 1990s and early 2000s was highlighted by players getting into melees on the court and misdemeanors off of it. Duncan spent four years at Wake Forest, earning his degree in psychology, at a time when many players were jumping from the high school straight to the ranks of the NBA with hopes of cashing in. Duncan would eventually cash in in 1997 when he was selected No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft. Duncan’s talents impacted the game immediately and veterans took notice. During the 1997 season following a game against the Houston Rockets, future Hall of Famer Charles Barkley was quoted as saying, “I have seen the future and he wears number 21”.

Duncan was given the nickname “The Big Fundamental” for his on-court savvy, which included a repertoire of hook shots, bank shots, bounce pass and blocks. Duncan played the right way as he kept his emotions in check on the court, credited his teammates for the team’s’ success, and was a pillar off the court in the community.  

Duncan was an oasis of humility in a league that is predicated by narcissistic, ego-driven players. Hopefully it’s sooner rather than later that American sports fans are blessed with an athlete who has the candor and virtue that Duncan possesses.