"And it would be because he's the most real, consistent, true person that I've ever met in my life".
Duncan played for the Spurs for all 19 years of his illustrious career, winning five championships alongside Popovich. Though he collected endorsement deals from top brands like Nike, Duncan always shied away from the NBA's massive spotlight and never once dealt with any controversy away from the court.
It's clear Popovich and Duncan share a special bond, and the Spurs coach paying tribute to Duncan's strong character was the flawless way to send San Antonio's quiet star off into the sunset.
"Tim Duncan is one of the most dominant players in NBA history", NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said, adding that Duncan's "understated selflessness made him the ultimate teammate".
Despite his own personal and team success, Duncan said the aspects of his career he'll remember the most are the people and the lasting relationships he created.
Caribbean-born professional basketball player Tim Duncan has announced his retirement from the NBA after a glittering career spanning 19 years.
In his first season San Antonio Spurs fans knew Tim Duncan would be one of the greatest players.
The 40-year-old was a 15-time All-Star and two-time NBA MVP.
To spend time with Timmy is really sublime in many ways, Popovich said.
The reluctant star was often overshadowed in the public eye by more outsized personalities like James and Kobe Bryant, who also retired this year after 20 seasons, all with the Los Angeles Lakers.
"I'm trying to wrap my head around why I'm standing here and he's not", Popovich said. "But his team-mates have and that's why his team-mates love him". Thats really who he is. That's good for the best winning percentage in not just the National Basketball Association, but also the MLB, NFL and NHL.
For Popovich, it's Duncan over everything. Instead he signed an extension with the then-New Jersey team, which a year later was broken up by new ownership and moved to Brooklyn.
And when asked if there's a specific game of Duncan's that sticks out, Popovich recalled a Summer League game when Duncan got blocked by Greg Ostertag. We will miss seeing you on the court. "To think that he's going to be gone makes it really hard to imagine walking into practice, going to a game, getting on the bus, taking him a piece of carrot cake, whatever it might be", said Popovch.
You don't see Timmy beating his chest as if he was the first human being to dunk the basketball, as a lot of people do these days. He just plays, and we've seen it for so long it's become nearly mundane.