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5 reasons Tim Duncan is fandom’s MVP

Or, why it is an absolute crime that there's no Tim Duncan anime series.


Aja Romano

Internet Culture

Posted on Jun 6, 2013   Updated on Jun 1, 2021, 1:58 pm CDT

NBA superstar Tim Duncan is a clean-cut mystery. Sports Illustrated once called him “a paragon of anti-charisma.” When he’s not leading the Spurs to the NBA finals, the mild-mannered basketball legend keeps to himself, with no social media presence to speak of and no public scandals to his name—oh, wait, he once got ejected from a game for laughing too much.

Perhaps because Duncan is so strait-laced, NBA fans are besotted with the little glimpses they get of his personality. Like that time he discovered he had arms.

And that time he had some bad Gatorade.

Tim Duncan Hams It Up for Crowd by Arching Left Eyebrow Slightly,” the Onion once quipped. 

But there’s one side of fandom that has yet to fall for Duncan—online, fanwork-based fandom, which is usually far more interested in writing, reading, and drawing than in which teams are duking it out on the basketball court. 

Generally speaking, sports fandom and fanwork-based fandom function as entirely separate beings. One inhabits an almost entirely real-life, male-dominated space; the other inhabits an almost entirely online, female-dominated space. 

There are some exceptions. The word “fandom” is, after all, a creation of the sports community–one of the earliest usages of the word comes from 1903 and is used in reference to baseball fans. And certain sports fandoms do have a presence in online, mostly female-dominated fandom spaces–particularly hockey, tennis, figure skating, and various other Olympic sports.

Apart from a few slashfics here and there, online fandom has so far largely ignored basketball.

But Tim Duncan, who wears his nerddom literally over his heart, where he sports a wizard tattoo, might just be the NBA all-star who can unite the un-unitable—the two disparate halves of sports and fanwork fandoms.

Illustration by rhurst/deviantART

Earlier today, Sports Illustrated released a hilarious list of reasons why Duncan is the most entertaining man in the NBA. We’ll go even further and say that it’s a crying shame that Tumblr isn’t laden with quirky Duncan GIFs, fanfic, fanart, and fan edits of basketball games.

Here are a few more reasons why we think Duncan’s could be the One NBA Championship Ring to bring them all and bind them—the fans, that is.

1) He already talks like he’s in a fanfic.

“I love how you are with your teammates. Stay that way, man, stay that way,” Duncan whispered into [LeBron] James’ ear.

Woah, woah, where is the Tim/LeBron fanfic? Is this real life or a homoerotic Lifetime movie?

Photo via sergi-is-all-in/Tumblr


2) He cosplays.


An image by Flickr user Strange Botwin is a Photoshop purporting to show Duncan at the 2008 Texas Renaissance Festival, a gag arising from the popular claim that Duncan likes to participate in renaissance fairs. But the power forward does like roleplaying D&D (Duncan & Dragons!) and collecting swords, so really, a little dress-up isn’t far off.

3) His college nickname was “Mr. Spock,” but now his preferred nickname is “Merlin.”

I’ll just let you slash fans out there ponder this one for a moment.

4) He makes for epic fanvids.

5) If life were a sports anime, Tim Duncan would be the stoic, mysterious team captain with a beautifully tragic past.

Illustration via jiggywithme/deviantart

Duncan is so stalwart and level-headed that little attention seems to be paid to his history full of obstacles, overcoming adversity, and choosing the unexpected path.

But if he were a character on a fan-favorite TV show or an anime, he’d be the one whose bland demeanor masked a tragic backstory: His mother died of cancer the day before he turned 14, and he had to trade his childhood dream of becoming a swimmer for basketball after Hurricane Hugo destroyed the only Olympic-sized pool in his home of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Duncan took to basketball awkwardly at first and stayed firmly away from the glorious path.

As JockBio puts it:

For all that Tim Duncan has accomplished in his amazing career, it’s what he hasn’t done that makes him truly remarkable. He didn’t grow up with a basketball in his hands, dreaming about hoops stardom. He didn’t have his choice of college powerhouses when the recruiters came calling. He didn’t leave school early and chase after the big money. And since entering the NBA, he has never been anything but an exemplary teammate and perfect role model. No, Tim is nothing like your typical superstar athlete—and are sports fans everywhere lucky he’s not.

So basically, Tim Duncan is the emo bishounen in the sports anime called “real life” that none of you guys are watching.

But you’re in luck—I hear brand-new special episodes are starting tonight at 9pm ET. Come on, fandom: What are you waiting for? Make Tim Duncan your next king. 

He’s earned it.

Illustration by mrdragonx/deviantART

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*First Published: Jun 6, 2013, 6:31 pm CDT