Spurs immortal Tim Duncan almost ended up with the Boston Celtics in the 1997 Draft.
Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs were the beneficiaries of some ungodly luck when they ended up with the No. 1 pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, giving them the privilege of selecting Tim Duncan over the Celtics despite Boston’s 15-67 record. While Duncan became a basketball legend in San Antonio, he originally wanted to make his name in Boston.
On a podcast appearance with The Ringer’s Logan Murdock and former NBA vet Raja Bell, Duncan said that he was originally disappointed he didn’t end up in Boston since he assumed for months he would end up there. However, he quickly learned to love San Antonio, citing how Popovich’s scheme was better for him than that of Pitino and the fact he was going to play alongside the great David Robinson.
Tim Duncan rewarded the Spurs with two decades of dominance
Duncan was expected to come into the league and immediately become a transcendental superstar, and he managed to check all of those boxes immediately. With 15 All-NBA appearances, five championships, and two MVPs, Duncan’s career could make him the greatest power forward in the history of the game.
Pitino, who admitted he took the Celtics job because he thought he was either going to get Duncan or the No. 2 pick, which would certainly end up being Utah’s Keith Van Horn, ended up with picks No. 3 and No. 6. At No. 3, Pitino took Chauncey Billups, but traded him away halfway into his rookie year in a move that somehow isn’t even in Pitino’s top five worst moves in Boston. Right after the Billups pick, he chose Ron Mercer, his former Kentucky shooting guard, over Tracy McGrady.
Duncan helped make the Spurs one of the NBA’s most successful dynasties, while the Celtics suffered through another decade of mediocrity without Duncan.