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Jon Krawczynski (AP) Jon Krawczynski (AP)
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NBA's Duncan retires after 19 seasons

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In this June 18, 2014, file photo, San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan shows fans five fingers representing the five NBA basketball titles the Spurs and Duncan have won, during a parade and celebration in San Antonio. Duncan announced his retirement on Monday, July 11, 2016, after 19 seasons, five championships, two MVP awards and 15 All-Star appearances. It marks the end of an era for the Spurs and the NBA. In this June 18, 2014, file photo, San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan shows fans five fingers representing the five NBA basketball titles the Spurs and Duncan have won, during a parade and celebration in San Antonio. Duncan announced his retirement on Monday, July 11, 2016, after 19 seasons, five championships, two MVP awards and 15 All-Star appearances. It marks the end of an era for the Spurs and the NBA. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas, File)

Tim Duncan spent nearly two decades as the quiet storm in the middle of the San Antonio Spurs franchise, putting the team on his broad shoulders and carrying it to heights unseen in modern American sports.

With Duncan as the focal point, the Spurs won five championships, made the playoffs in all 19 of his seasons and cemented themselves as one of the most successful sports franchises in history. And now, the tireless and reluctant superstar is finally calling it a career.

The 40-year-old Duncan announced his retirement on Monday, marking the end of an era for the Spurs and the NBA.

'The greatest power forward ever,' the Los Angeles Clippers' Jamal Crawford said Monday, as the tributes to Duncan's career began coming.

Few would dare argue.

Duncan was the No. 1 overall pick in 1997 and teamed with coach Gregg Popovich, point guard Tony Parker and shooting guard Manu Ginobili to turn the Spurs from a solid franchise that could never quite get over the hump into one of the league's superpowers.

'The constant staple of their franchise,' Cleveland's LeBron James said earlier this year.

The unassuming Duncan won two MVP awards and was one of just four players to be named NBA Finals MVP at least three times. Nicknamed 'The Big Fundamental' for his clinical approach that favored bank shots over dunks, he was a 15-time All-Star, a member of the All-NBA first team 10 times and is one of only three players joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parrish to win at least 1,000 games in his career. He is fifth on the NBA's career list in blocks, sixth in rebounds and 14th in scoring.

'Even tho I knew it was coming, I'm still moved by the news,' Ginobili tweeted. 'What a HUGE honor to have played with him for 14 seasons! #ThankYouTD.'

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called Duncan 'one of the most dominant players in NBA history' and lauded him for an 'understated selflessness (that) made him the ultimate teammate.'

'For two decades Tim represented the Spurs, the city of San Antonio and the league with passion and class,' Silver said. 'All of us in the NBA family thank him for his profound impact on the game.'

Duncan was never one for big endorsement deals or look-at-me press conferences, which is why he 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. But he leaves this game as one of the league's true giants, perhaps the best power forward to ever play and one who left as indelible a mark on his franchise as any player to come before him.

'For us as players, we just enjoy and appreciate each other,' Bryant said earlier this season. 'It's not a matter of who's better or who's greater. You just accept the careers that you've had. I appreciate his career, and vice versa.'

The announcement comes two months after the Spurs were upset by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals, a six-game exit that immediately had people wondering yet again if it was Duncan's last hurrah.

Turns out, it was. And like everything else Duncan did in his career - aside from win - he retired quietly, with a statement from the team. There will be no victory lap for Duncan, no farewell tour like the one Bryant had this season. Popovich will discuss Duncan's decision on Tuesday.

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