While not exactly a movie buff, I am a sucker for controversy, and that is why my favorite Oscar tradition is the annual (and infamous) "legacy winner." I'm talking about John Wayne winning for True Grit, Paul Newman for The Color of Money, Martin Scorsese for The Departed -- grizzled old legends, long denied the ultimate prize, who garner a late-career nod for an achievement that isn't quite their best.
These kinds of votes, of course, drive some people absolutely mad. This is supposed to be an award for this year! How can the Academy ignore more worthy performance(s)?! Personally, I couldn't be happier that an old bad-ass like Newman won an Oscar over, say, James Woods for Salvador. Screw James Woods! So what if The Departed wouldn't even rank in the top five films in Scorsese's catalog? I love Scorsese, and I'm happy he finally won.
We sportswriters like to pretend our own awards are more objective than the ones handed out by Hollywood; sports are games of numbers, with clear winners and losers. It's all nonsense, of course. There are odd, unspoken formulas for each -- team success and scoring for sports, period pieces and playing disabled people for Hollywood. If Oscar voters can award legacy Oscars, why can't sportswriters?
Fortunately, it just so happens that there is an opportunity for the NBA to bestow an award on a grizzled legend who has been denied for far too long. I'm referring, of course, to Timothy Theodore Duncan: (future) 2014–15 NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
While The Big Fundamental - -- winner of two league MVPs, three Finals MVPs, one All-Star MVP, and three collegiate Player of the Year awards - -- doesn't need a DPOY Award to fill out his career resume, no one can claim that honoring a defensive legend with the one piece of hardware missing on his shelf would be unjust.
It wouldn't be enough to simply call the 38-year-old power forward the best defender never to win DPOY - -- he is arguably the second-greatest defender of all time.
Recently, Duncan passed a fascinating (yet relatively unknown) career milestone, becoming just the second player in NBA history to reach 100 Basketball-Reference defensive win shares.
This is one of those rare moments where stat-heads can agree with 70-year-old basketball lifers: Bill Russell is the greatest defensive player of all time. Win shares are far from perfect as a metric, but the fact that Russell is so far ahead of the pack, combined with his sterling historical reputation, gives him a clear edge.
But where does that leave Duncan?
The man is to NBA defense what Hank Aaron was to home runs during his playing career, providing consistent, oft-overlooked brilliance over a staggeringly long period. Five times during his career, Duncan has led the NBA in defensive win shares, and four times he posted the league's lowest D-Rating. He has been named to the NBA All-Defense team in 13 of his first 16 seasons -- eight times on the 1st team and five times on the 2nd team. He ranks seventh all time in blocks, the only non-center (wink, wink) on the list.
Most importantly, Duncan has anchored a consistently great Spurs defense for nearly two decades. Only once in his 16 seasons has San Antonio finished outside the top 10 in team defensive efficiency. That was in 2010–11, when they ended up 11th.
And it's not just what the old man has done over the course of his career. Duncan's performance this season does, in fact, merit consideration for DPOY on its own.
The defending champs -- decimated by injury, with Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills and Tiago Splitter all missing significant time - still rank fifth in the NBA in D-Rating, and Duncan is the main reason why. He ranks fourth in the league in defensive win shares (despite playing fewer total minutes than any player in the top nine), fifth in blocks per game, and first in defensive box plus/minus, a metric which estimates the number of points a player saves on defense per 100 possessions.
Duncan is dominating with far more than guile. He has never possessed the bulging biceps of rim protectors like Dwight Howard or Ben Wallace, but he remains one of the strongest big men in the NBA. Duncan doesn't merely swat balls into the stands -- once he gets one of those big mitts on the ball, he can still easily overpower younger bigs.
Perhaps the most astonishing measure of Duncan's physical dominance is what the big man has been able to do at the end of games. He is averaging 32.1 minutes per game - -- his most since 2008–09 -- yet still is able to make his mark in crunch time.
Take, for example, his performance on Dec. 19. The Spurs were pulled into three overtimes against the Portland Trail Blazers, two nights after playing three overtimes against the Memphis Grizzlies. San Antonio lost both contests, but old man Duncan was magnificent throughout, following up a 48-minute performance against Memphis with a punishing 43 minutes against Portland, and still had enough left in the tank to stuff LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews in double-OT.
It seems paradoxical to honor one of the winningest players of his generation when his team is struggling (at least by Spurs standards), but San Antonio would truly be lost without Duncan's defensive mastery. If he isn't currently the best defender in the NBA, he is certainly on the short list; a nominee, if you will. So perhaps the time has come to give Duncan his True Grit DPOY award. There's nothing wrong with a token of appreciation for a magnificent defensive player before he rides off into the sunset.
For more sports coverage, visit The Cauldron and follow them on Twitter: @TheCauldron
Check out the coolest sports photos of the week in the gallery below:
Sports PotW 1/5
Tim Duncan for Defensive Player of the Year ... please?
Quarterback Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions fumbles the ball after being sacked by defensive end Demarcus Lawrence #90 of the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth quarter during a NFC Wild Card Playoff game at AT&T Stadium on January 4, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Stanford forward Kailee Johnson, right, reacts after being called for a foul on Colorado forward Jen Reese (34) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stanford, Calif., Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015. Stanford won 62-55. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Sunderland's Connor Wickham, right, vies for the ball with Leeds United's captain Liam Cooper, left, during their English FA Cup third round soccer match between Sunderland and Leeds United at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland, England, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
Boise State running back Jay Ajayi dives for the touchdown as Arizona cornerback Jarvis McCall Jr. defends during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Andrew Shaw #65 of the Chicago Blackhawks is sprayed with water prior to the NHL game against the Dallas Stars at the United Center on January 4, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
Jermaine Edmondson #39 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates a 42-41 win against the Baylor Bears during the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium on January 1, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns' Eric Bledsoe lunges for a loose ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Akira Yaegashi of Japan, right, lands left to Pedro Guevara of Mexico during their bout for the vacant WBC Light Flyweight title in Tokyo, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
In this handout image provided by the Volvo Ocean Race, Misty Start of Leg 3 from Abu Dhabi to Sanya on January 03, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 is the 12th running of this ocean marathon. Starting from Alicante in Spain on October 04, 2014, the route, spanning some 39,379 nautical miles, visits 11 ports in eleven countries (Spain, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, China, New Zealand, Brazil, United States, Portugal, France, The Netherlands and Sweden) over nine months. The Volvo Ocean Race is the world's premier ocean yacht race for professional racing crews. (Photo by Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race via Getty Images)
Roger Federer takes part in the Pat Rafter Arena Spectacular during day one of the 2015 Brisbane International at Pat Rafter Arena on January 4, 2015 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
Oussama Assaidi of Stoke City battles for the ball with Rob Evans of Wrexham during the FA Cup Third Round match between Stoke City and Wrexham at Britannia Stadium on January 4, 2015 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan goes up for a reverse dunk during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 99-78. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Germone Hopper #5 of the Clemson Tigers attempts a reception against Jordan Thomas #7 of the Oklahoma Sooners during the Russell Athletic Bowl at Florida Citrus Bowl on December 29, 2014 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Max Domi #16 of Team Canada scores an empty net goal to secure Team Canada's win over Team United States in a preliminary round game during the 2015 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships at the Bell Centre on December 31, 2014 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Spectators watch a competitor jump during Day One of the FIS Nordic Combined World Cup HS 106 Team Competition on January 3, 2015 in Schonach, Germany. (Photo by Michael Kienzler/Bongarts/Getty Images)
The Washington Capitals swarm goalie Braden Holtby (70) after their 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in the Winter Classic at Nationals Park on January 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Jack Nowell of Exeter Chiefs dives over for his side's first try during the Aviva Premiership match between Exeter Chiefs and Gloucester Rugby at Sandy Park on January 3, 2015 in Exeter, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
#301 Nasser Al Attiyah of Qatar and Mathieu Baumel of France for the ALL4 Racing Mini Qatar Rally Team compete during day 1 of the Dakar Rallly on January 4, 2015 between Buenos Aires and Villa Carlos Paz, Argentina. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Emily Sweeney of the United States competes in the 1st run of the Women's FIL Luge World Cup Koenigssee at Deutsche Post Eisarena on January 3, 2015 in Koenigssee, Germany. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic serves in the mixed doubles match against Eugenie Bouchard and Vasek Pospisil of Canada during day one of the 2015 Hopman Cup at Perth Arena on January 4, 2015 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)
Severin Freund of Germany during the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup Vierschanzentournee (Four Hills Tournament) on January 04, 2015 in Innsbruck, Austria. (Photo by Stanko Gruden/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
In this handout image provided by the Volvo Ocean Race, onboard Team Alvimedica. Sunrise in the Straits of Hormuz after a busy night of sailing north along the UAE coastline. Dave Swete gets a hand from Seb Marsset while he repairs a rip in the A3 sail January 4, 2015 during Leg 3 between Abu Dhabi, UAE and Sanya, China. The Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 is the 12th running of this ocean marathon. Starting from Alicante in Spain on October 11, 2014, the route, spanning some 39,379 nautical miles, visits 11 ports in 11 countries (Spain, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, China, New Zealand, Brazil, United States, Portugal, France, the Netherlands and Sweden) over nine months. The Volvo Ocean Race is the world's premier ocean race for professional racing crews. (Photo by Amory Ross/Team Alvimedica/Volvo Ocean Race via Getty Images)
Adrian Colunga of Brighton celebrates scoring the first goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Fulham and Brighton & Hove Albion at Craven Cottage on December 29, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)