KEY POINTS

  • Tim Duncan was discovered in Virgin Islands in 1992
  • Duncan once blocked Shaquille O'Neal twice as a college freshman
  • The San Antonio Spurs legend also "dominated" David Robinson as a rookie in scrimmage

Tim Duncan’s Hall of Fame basketball journey wouldn’t be complete without the tremendous amount of stories detailing how the San Antonio Spurs legend started as a relative unknown back in the 1990s.

As a budding Olympic-hopeful teenage swimmer from the Virgin Islands with not much basketball background, Duncan had to prove himself constantly when he flew to the United States.

The Athletic's Brendan Marks and CJ Moore recently chronicled an oral history piece revealing the never-been-told specifics of how Wake Forest discovered a 16-year-old Duncan.

Back then, his teammates were clueless that they were in the presence of someone who would eventually become regarded as the greatest power forward ever.

“There’s no basketball players from the Virgin Islands. This kid can’t play. Get somebody else,” then-Demon Deacons guard Randolph Childress recalled, reacting upon hearing about Duncan’s recruitment.

As has been the case, the five-time NBA champion let his game walk the talk. In 1994, a then-college freshman Duncan was surprisingly recruited by Team USA for an international tournament called the Goodwill Games.

George Raveling, the head coach of the selection which included youngsters Damon Stoudamire and Michael Finley, played tune-up matches against the Olympic Dream Team 2 in preparation, according to then-Wake Forest assistant Ernie Nestor.

Duncan, then a college freshman, faced off against a future four-time NBA champion in Shaquille O'Neal and managed to block two of his shot attempts.

"Now they come back and they play against Dream Team 2 in two exhibitions. So now he’s playing against Shaquille [O’Neal]. Dave and I flew to Oakland to watch the big fella play, and we’re sitting baseline," Nestor shared.

"There’s Tim, all 205 pounds of him, and he blocked Shaquille’s shot—twice. I can still remember, he blocks Shaq, and Shaq is looking around to see who blocked his shot, and the ball of course is going in the other direction."

Raveling eventually took Duncan to Russia since Team USA was "running out of big guys."

Years after, Duncan would end up becoming one of the best Wake Forest players ever, having his jersey retired and becoming the consensus National Player of the Year in 1997.

Duncan would be drafted first overall in the same year by the Spurs, pairing him with another legend, David Robinson for a formidable frontcourt.

Prior to the start of the NBA season that time, Duncan again surprised everyone by reportedly dominating Robinson as a rookie.

The Ringer provided the details of the scrimmages, talking to then-Spurs playmaker Avery Johnson about how the two big men duked it out on opposite intra-squad selections.

“We really couldn’t believe what we were seeing. Tim dominated David, who I thought was a pretty good defender," Johnson said.

“It got to the point where Pop (head coach Gregg Popovich) had David spend the rest of training camp on Tim’s team.”

That jump-started Duncan's unreal two-decade pro basketball resumé, which included two NBA MVPs, three Finals MVPs, 15 All-Star appearances, and 15 All-NBA selections.

To think that his switch to hoops started when the pool he uses to practice was ravaged by a hurricane back then, Duncan has incredibly defied the odds and etched his name among the sport's greats.

Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers share a laugh during a November 2012 NBA game. The two will be among those inducted as the class of 2020 -- Bryant posthumously after his death in a helicopter crash -- into the Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers share a laugh during a November 2012 NBA game. The two will be among those inducted as the class of 2020 -- Bryant posthumously after his death in a helicopter crash -- into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Photo: NBAE / Getty Images / Noah Graham