Kriston Capps is a staff writer for CityLab covering housing, architecture, and politics. He previously worked as a senior editor for Architect magazine.
San Antonio’s first skyscraper in nearly 30 years should honor the Spurs power forward, who ruled the court for nearly 20.
San Antonio is gaining a brand-new downtown skyscraper. The forthcoming Frost Tower, designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli, will be the first skyscraper to go up in the city in 27 years.
At the same time, San Antonio is losing a tower that has kept watch over the city for nearly 20 years.
On Monday, the same day that San Antonio-based real-estate firm Weston Urban unveiled the plans for Frost Tower, legendary San Antonio Spurs power forward Tim Duncan told the world that he was retiring from the NBA. It’s a sunset for one of the greatest figures in basketball history, perhaps the greatest power forward to ever play the game.
Only former Spurs center David Robinson comes close to having the same impact on on San Antonio—and Robinson won both of his NBA rings, in 1999 and 2003, playing alongside Duncan. Duncan went on to take home three more championships, showering the city in glory. He also cut a cultural figure worthy of celebration in The Onion: cerebral, academic, selfless, focused on the fundamentals, even something of an urban nerd and zoning buff. (Those last things probably aren’t true, but CityLab chooses to believe them anyway.)
“An NBA Legend Rides Into the Sunset at a Safe and Prudent Speed,” reads Monday’s Onion headline.
So here’s a modest proposal for a modest hero who elevated his modest city to dynasty status: The city should name its next skyscraper after its greatest basketball player. Call it Frost’s Tim Duncan Tower or Tim Duncan’s Frost Tower or some combination of the two. Or maybe just the Big Fundamental.
Now, to be sure, Pelli Clarke Pelli’s design for Frost Tower may be too flashy for a player who once mid-game told an opponent (former Washington Wizards center Etan Thomas) how to better defend against him. At 400 feet tall, the tower will be just slightly shorter than Duncan. There is a comparison to be made between the building’s harmonious, rounded design and Duncan’s status as the most well-rounded offensive and defensive player in NBA history. And in the public-private partnership under which the city sold the property to Weston Urban, the developer has agreed to build at least 265 new multi-family housing units downtown—giving back to the team, just like Duncan always did.
Sure, San Antonio’s next skyscraper already has a name (Frost Tower), but then again, Central Texas already has one of those (Frost Bank Tower in Austin). It wouldn’t hurt Frost to share some glory with Duncan. The only figure more deserving may be Gregg Popovich, but I don’t see that going over very well with Pop. Timmy won’t mind, at least.
It’s not that Duncan really needs this honor. He played his entire 19-year career with San Antonio, a phenomenon that’s increasingly rare in professional sports, especially for such a small media market; his number will hang in the rafters of the AT&T Center for as long as the Spurs play basketball in Alamo City. Duncan helped to build the team’s rabid and far-reaching fanbase. He’s put basketball right up there with breakfast tacos: San Antonio will be a basketball town for a long time to come. Giving the man a tower is the least the city could do.