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James, Duncan aim to join greatest ever
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On June 6, 2013 @ 1:29 am In Wirenews | Comments Disabled
by Adi Joseph and Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
MIAMI — Scrawled across LeBron James’ back, underneath the nameplate on his No. 6 Miami Heat jersey, is “CHOSEN 1.” The words have stretched out with his physique but remain a testament to his talent.
There’s a wizard covering Tim Duncan’s heart. His No. 21 San Antonio Spurs jersey, the one he’s worn for 16 seasons, occasionally reveals the tattoo while he plays as it drapes over his pointed shoulders and lanky arms.
This is basketball in evolution, two of the greatest players in NBA history taking the court for the NBA Finals, beginning at 9 p.m. ET Thursday in Miami. James and Duncan entered the NBA as No.1 draft picks, six years apart but with matching expectations. They’ve delivered, as the only players with a championship and multiple MVPs since 2000.
These Finals could define them, build their résumés toward inclusion among the NBA’s inner circle. But the superstars, one in his august years, the other at the top of the world, share a more narrow focus.
“The really good ones don’t start skipping steps and thinking about how they’re being viewed until long after they’ve called it a career,” said Jeff Van Gundy, the former coach who will call the Finals for ABC. “They’re just locked into the present moment, knowing it’s very hard to do what they’ve done.”
That means five rings, six MVPs, four Finals MVPs, two rookie of the year awards, 17 All-NBA first-team selections and 23 All-Star Game appearances, combined. That production has James and Duncan discussed among the greats even as they play.
But while teammates Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili burnish Hall of Fame résumés, Duncan and James are pretty much already there.
Duncan is further along. He joins Bob Cousy, Michael Jordan, George Mikan and and Shaquille O’Neal as the only players to be first-team All-NBA and win a title in the same season four times; this would be his fifth.
“He’s the greatest power forward to play the game,” said NBA TV analyst Steve Smith, who was on the Spurs’ 2003 championship team. “I think that door is shut and closed. But overall? … [For more on LeBron James, Tim Duncan aim to join greatest ever, click here.]
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