- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Tim Duncan is not expected to provoke an outpouring of interest from the product-pushing maestros of Madison Avenue following his second NBA championship with the Spurs.

Duncan, you see, is too bland to excite the masses. He is not expressive enough on the basketball court.

He does not break out in song and dance after dunking the ball in the first quarter. He does not beat on his chest after completing a routine play. He does not go into a self-obsessed frenzy if the circumstances of a game are conspiring against him. He does not do the twist, the tango or the limbo, or stage pep rallies during pauses in a game.

Worse, Duncan does not have the requisite art gallery on his body or the attorney at his side to explain how law-enforcement authorities, members of the media and the neighbors down the street have the player’s impending legal matter all wrong.

Here’s what happened: It was the work of a satanic cult.

It is all about the satanic cult nowadays.

It used to be about the golf-playing members of the Colombian cartel.

There is none of that nonsense with Duncan.

There is merely his impeccable style and grace on the court, which is not enough.

Duncan just plays the game with class, dignity and honor, as it was intended to be played.

It seems Duncan is too professional in these over-the-top times.

He is too modest, too humble, too grounded. He is his own man.

He has shown no inclination to adopt the mannerisms and attire of the so-called hip crowd.

He is who he is, a two-time MVP of the NBA who has not loaned part of his identity to a group.

Duncan appears at peace with that. Write what you want, he tells the national press.

There is no rancor in his voice, no attitude, no claims of being misunderstood. He is a wonderful basketball player, and that is all he is, and if that is not enough, so be it.

As far as anyone knows, Duncan has not opted to embroider the seats in his vehicle with the moniker “King Tim,” which probably would be an infringement of copyright laws.

LeBron James, the flavor of the moment going into the NBA Draft next Thursday night, goes by the nickname “King James,” as the seats in his Hummer H2 attest. His way with words, among other things, earned James a $90million deal from Nike as he was finishing up his senior year in high school.

Duncan has no such staggering deal lurking in his endorsement portfolio. He has contracts with a number of companies, most visibly with Sprite, although they are almost modest deals in relation to his stature in the NBA.

This is one of the unsettling outcomes of the marketing game, of hype trumping substance.

The late Joe DiMaggio never would have had a second professional life as Mr. Coffee in today’s marketplace. He was hardly an expressive performer in his playing days with the Yankees, from 1936 to ‘51, when a strong, silent type epitomized the male ideal in America.

In today’s New York City, DiMaggio would be perceived as bland, dull and lacking in charisma.

These are the routine charges before Duncan, sometimes made by marketers who barely know a basketball from a football but who know which types of personalities inspire others to grab products off the shelf.

The marketers are obligated to respond to America’s base instincts instead of a higher purpose.

Duncan and the Spurs are coming to a Wheaties box near you in a couple of weeks, which probably concerns the higher-ups with General Mills, accustomed as they are to the marketing power of Tiger Woods.

As boring as Duncan is, the boxes are doomed to collect dust on store shelves.

Watching dust collect fits Duncan, who hardly needs the money and attention of corporate America.

But there is this nagging notion: If corporate America and consumers are susceptible to the commercial merit of an athlete, why not someone who has achieved the highest prizes in his field and who embodies a worthy value system?

Seriously, if your child brings home a report card with all As, do you want him beating on his chest before hanging from a chandelier in celebration?

You do?

Duncan, then, is not the person to be telling you which soda pop to buy.

Perhaps Ron Artest can help you with that decision.

Unlike Duncan, he has a lot of extraneous flair to his game.

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