In celebration of the San Antonio Spurs victory in the 2014 NBA Finals, I am sharing a short biography of future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan. This humble superstar from the Virgin Islands is both a top athlete and a wonderful role model for children. The biography is taken from my e-book 2-Minute Biographies For Kids, which you can find on amazon. Because of the biography's "riddle format," you can read it aloud to your child, stop right before the final sentence, and see if your child can identify the featured individual.
Though well-known as a basketball player, this athlete began competing as a swimmer following the lead of his two older sisters. By the age of 13, he set records in his hometown of St. Croix in both the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle and was thought to be a solid contender for the 1992 Virgin Island Olympic Swimming Team.
On April 24, 1990, his mother Ione passed away from cancer, one day before he turned 14. He stopped swimming at this time because he didn’t believe it made sense for him to continue. Swimming had been such an important part of his relationship with his mother that when she passed away, he lost his motivation for it.
A short time later, he took up basketball with the help of his brother-in-law and made the freshman team at his high school. He was clumsy, yet patient and eager to learn. He continued to progress as a basketball player throughout high school, but he only received his scholarship to Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina after a former Wake Forest player saw him in action and recommended him to Demon Deacon Head Coach Dave Odom.
At Wake Forest his success on the court was due as much to his intelligence, work ethic, and thoughtful approach to the game as it was to his physical talents. He was always a dedicated student. In fact, at age 8 he was so capable that he skipped a grade in school. “I love to think. I just love the inner workings of the mind,” he once said. Coach Odom said he was the best listener he ever coached and felt that the player’s mental approach and regular studying of game tapes were responsible for much of his improvement. This was a player, according to Odom, “who used his brain as much as his body.”
In only his second season he led Wake Forest to victory over North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference Title game. As a sophomore, he was the National Defensive Player of the Year, First-team All-ACC, and on the All-ACC Tournament team. Jerry West, then the General Manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, said that he was the best player in college basketball, and many experts thought he should give up his final two years of college to turn pro. The Golden State Warriors General Manager openly said that he would have taken this player with the first overall pick in the draft. Because he enjoyed college life and his studies, he decided to forego millions of dollars to stay in school. He also stayed because before his mother died, she asked him to promise he would go to college and get a good education. It was a promise he took seriously. Both of his parents were very committed to education.
Following an even more impressive junior year, again everyone wondered if he would leave early for the draft. The temptation of the money and the risk of injury made it so that very few top players stayed in school all four years. All he said was, “I’m not going anywhere.” According to author Sean Adams, “He had made it clear that he intended to finish college and get a degree before moving on to the NBA, and that wasn’t up for debate. His reasons were the same they’d been all along.”
In 1997, the San Antonio Spurs selected him with the first pick of the NBA Draft. He became an instant star as the league’s Rookie of the Year. He is the first player in league history to make an All-NBA Team and All-Defensive Team in each of first 13 seasons. He won the NBA MVP award twice, was named to an All-NBA First Team 9 times, played in 14 All-Star games, and led the Spurs to 5 NBA Titles. His name...is Tim Duncan.