His future uncertain, here’s something for the legend to consider: Helping bolster the NBA’s anemic mental health support system.
(REMEMBER TO LOG IN AND RECOMMEND THIS STORY)
May I call you Tim? I refuse to call you Timmy, because it’s been three decades since you were nine years old. Thanks. Anyway, I’ve been a San Antonio Spurs fan since you were on the swim team back in St. Croix, so I feel as if I’ve seen you grow up in the league and can address you on a first-name basis. Plus, I’m three years and two days older than you, so I’m calling seniority in that regard. Happy (belated birthday), by the way.
Your 18th season is now in the books. Your current one-year contract expires July 1. Once again, pundits and fans are trying to glean some inkling as to what you’re going to do for the upcoming season. Past interviews continue to be parsed and analyzed in ways that would make the CIA, NSA, and FBI proud. Tea leaves, astrologists, tarot readers, and palmists have been consulted; bones have been thrown, water and mirrors scryed. Will he or won’t he retire? And will we find out before free agency begins on July 1?
As you kick start your early vacation with a brisk round of paint ball (sorry about Team Wolf Pack), you will do exactly what you’ve told all who ask: consult your kids and figure out if you’re going to saddle up for one more year, or hang up your spurs for good.
While you’re pondering, I just have one bit of advice to offer. Well, two bits, actually.
First, hit the beach and grab a cocktail — you’ve earned a bit of R&R. But second, should you decide that the physical demands of an 82-game season are simply too much to bear at your advanced age, you should become a sports psychologist, and contract your services to the NBA.
For those outside the basketball world, it’s a no-brainer. You graduated with your bachelor’s degree in psychology from Wake Forest University before becoming the number one overall pick eighteen years ago. While there, you took elective courses in anthropology and Chinese literature, and you were professionally published in your field before you even attained your bachelor’s degree. Even without your all-world basketball skill, you’d have been in college on academic merit alone — and that’s something that can be said about relatively few professional athletes.
You’re well-respected by your peers in the league, and you’re viewed as the ambassador for basketball by those outside of it. You’re a leader. You mentor young players (Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans; Blake Griffin and Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers; former Washington Wizards player Etan Thomas) and you give them the tools necessary to follow in your size-sixteens. You’re consistent and even-keeled, for the most part. You know when to keep your mouth shut, and when to speak up. People trust you inherently.
Coincidentally, these are all of the qualities you want to see in a mental health professional.
You’ve stated repeatedly that, whenever you decide to retire, you’d eventually come back to the game that you love so much (and that loves you back). While your stated preference in the past has involved something on the court versus behind the camera, those aren’t your only two options. Providing counsel as a sports psychologist would be an even greater service to your brothers-in-arms than any post moves you could teach them.
Consider the following: Two years to earn a master’s degree in clinical psychology, then two to four additional years to earn a PhD or PsyD. A year or so to do an internship. Take the requisite licensure exams. Hang out your shingle as a fully licensed psychologist. You have constantly referred to a desire to spend more time with your children, who are growing up fast. Going back go school would give you that time, and keep your brain active. Plus, you and the kids could do your homework together. How cool is that?!
(sidebar: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro has a highly regarded graduate program. Greensboro is around the corner from Winston-Salem and your alma mater Wake Forest University, which also offers a graduate program in counseling. I think they’d be overjoyed to have you, Tim. Just saying.)
Granted, you’d have to take the GRE for admission to any graduate program, but you just got done with seven games of bodying up Blake Griffin and/or DeAndre Jordan — the test should be much less painful, comparatively speaking. And think of the possibilities.
The NBA’s mental health protocol for players, as it stands now, is pitiful. This isn’t going to change without a silver bullet, and that silver bullet could be you. The league front office loves you. Commissioner Adam Silver is going to be around for a while, and he’s also a fan of yours. Don’t the two of you share a birthday? You are uniquely positioned as the one man who could really get this thing going. And, not that this sort of thing matters to you, but it would add another coat of luster to your already shiny basketball legacy.
Dr. Timothy T. Duncan. Or Timothy T. Duncan, MA, Sports Psychologist. Mental health consultant to the NBA. Either way, I’m on board. The league is changing, and so is the world we live in. To paraphrase Abraham Ford from The Walking Dead: the new basketball world is gonna need Dr. Tim Duncan.
It’s just a thought for you to ponder this off-season.
From one TD to another,
Tiffany M. Davis