And since 1997, when the 6-foot-11 Wake Forest grad first donned the silver and black as the NBA draft’s No. 1 overall pick, no American sports team has done that job better. it’s hard to imagine that’s not primarily a product of Duncan’s no-nonsense efficiency, though Fratello points out that Popovich and the Spurs’ front office — as well as the personnel it’s paired with Duncan — deserve credit.

To truly appreciate Duncan, you have to take the long view. So where does he rank among players all time?

We’ll start with Kerr because of his credentials. Sure, Fratello coached greatness in Dominique Wilkins and others, but Kerr played on Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls teams, so he’s actually passed greatness the ball.

Kerr said Bill Russell, Jordan and Magic Johnson fill out his top three, “and at that point, you can throw Tim Duncan up against anybody, in my mind.” A fifth title — should the Spurs dispatch the winner of the Heat-Pacers series — would elevate Duncan to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar status because of the time between trophies. Abdul-Jabbar won six championships between 1971 and 1988.

“Star players normally don’t win until they reach their prime. … Titles come in a cozy span of six to eight years, not 13,” Kerr said. “It speaks to his brilliance over his entire career.”

Fratello sees it similarly and puts Duncan in the top five of all time, along with Kerr’s top three and Abdul-Jabbar.

“Tim Duncan certainly belongs in that company. It’s rarefied air that he’s in,” he said.

Wilco said “the greatest ever” debates are heavily dependent on “who’s talking, where they’re talking and who they’re talking to.” He’s not sure, as a Spurs blogger, how much mileage he can derive by putting Duncan in an all-time team of players at every position, he said.

He and the other contributors to Pounding the Rock, however, confidently call Duncan “GOAT PUFF,” an acronym (sort of) for Greatest Of All Time Power Forward.

Told of Fratello’s and Kerr’s assessments, Wilco softened his resistance to ranking his team’s perennial all-star.

“I wouldn’t disagree with those guys,” he said. “The top five is an excellent place for him.”

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