For some inexplicable reason, there is a conversation happening on the interwebs debating the merits of Tim Duncan vs Anthony Davis. Davis is an incredible talent, there’s no denying it, and nor do I want to. However, “The Big Fundamental” is an all-time great and deserves much more respect than this. Allow me to explain why it’s not even remotely close.
On the surface, it looks like you could make an argument. Anthony Davis is averaging more points and rebounds per game than Tim Duncan over the course of his career, but let’s remember one key thing — Duncan played until he was 39 years old. Anthony Davis is currently 26.
So let’s look at the start of their careers, then, for comparison. Through age 26:
66.6 games per season (excluding 2019-2020 season)
24.0 points per game, 10.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.4 blocks
75.2 games per season
22.8 points per game, 12.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.5 blocks
The early-career statistics are similar, albeit in different eras. That said, Davis has missed far more games than Duncan did early in his career. As the old adage goes, “the best ability is availability.” Duncan’s longevity, combined with his sustained excellence, led him to one of the best careers basketball has ever seen. Over 19 seasons, Duncan was a 5x NBA Champion in six appearances, 3x Finals MVP, 2x League MVP, 15x All-NBA and All-Defensive team, and a 15x All-Star.
Peak Duncan was in the 2003 NBA Finals, when he decided to steal the show in an absurd fashion. In a 6-game series against the New Jersey Nets, Duncan averaged 24.2 points, 17 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 5.3 blocks.
The all-time greats know how to transcend the game for the sake of glory. Look no further than the clinching Game 6 numbers — 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, and 8 blocks.
This was an era where final scores didn’t resemble video game numbers. In that 6-game series, there was only one contest where a team, the Spurs, scored over 100 points. They averaged 87.8 per game. By comparison, the Los Angeles Lakers averaged 110.0 points per game in their 6-game Finals victory over the Miami Heat this year. Even on the opposite side, the Heat, in a losing effort, averaged 104.5.
Anthony Davis, in the 2020 NBA Finals, put up great numbers, to be sure. In an era where his Lakers averaged damn near 25 more points per game in the Finals than Duncan’s ‘03 Spurs, Davis averaged 25 points, 10.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 2 blocks.
Not only did Tim Duncan manage to win five rings, but he did so during a titanic clash of dominant franchises — in all but three seasons between 1999 and 2014, either Tim Duncan and the Spurs or Kobe Bryant and the Lakers represented the West in the Finals. Of those 13 combined appearances, the Spurs and Lakers won 10 championships. Let that sink in.
*Highlight represents NBA Champions
There are only three players in the history of the NBA with over 25,000 points, 15,000 rebounds, and 4,000 assists:
I’ll tell you what. If Anthony Davis plays for 13 more seasons and sustains his current statistics, and if he wins five more championships, and if he ends up in the top 5 all-time in multiple categories, then maybe we can have this discussion. Anthony Davis is great right now. Tim Duncan was an all-time legend.