The metronomic consistency that defined his brilliant 19-year career led many NBA fans and writers to joke that, of all the players in the league, none was more likely to be some kind of cyborg than Tim Duncan. From the looks of it, the San Antonio Spurs legend, who hung up his high-tops and Punisher knee brace back in July, seems pretty OK with that kind of characterization.


Check out the expansive new tattoo that “The Big Fundamental” commissioned from his shoulder down to his lower back, as shared by artist Chris Escobedo of Elite Custom Tattoo in Phoenix:

So, yeah: given the idle time of retirement to indulge his imagination, Big Fun decided to adorn his back with ink suggesting that, underneath all that meddlesome skin and muscle and sinew, Duncan has for all these years been more machine than man. Duh.

TD’s got nothing but time to get the work done these days, but this mammoth piece actually appears to have been in the works for several years now. The ace investigators at the NBA Tattoos Tumblr noted in June of 2014 that the skull-faced jester on Duncan’s right shoulder — which he’d had for at least a decade, as it was covered in Andrew Gottlieb’s 2003 photo book “In the Paint: Tattoos of the NBA and the Stories Behind Them” — had been covered up with something else, something larger, that peeked out from his jersey during the 2014 postseason but couldn’t quite be seen in full.

More details of Duncan’s new ink came to light in September of 2015, when Jared Zwerling discussed the in-progress art in a feature on Duncan’s car customization business for Bleacher Report:

On this day in August, [Duncan’s longtime friend and BlackJack Speed Shop business partner Jason] Pena’s shirt reads “Bangin’ Gears, Hurtin’ Ears.” Also, Pena has invited his close friend from Arizona, popular tattoo artist Chris Escobedo, to come to the shop and give the three of them, including Duncan, each tattoos. Duncan describes his tattoo as a “car part yin yang, mechanical meets spiritual.”

Interest piqued, our Tumblr detectives then saw Escobedo sharing a glimpse at the ongoing work:

Escobedo later made it clear that he wasn’t responsible for the initial jester cover-up. The expansion to match up with the yin-yang, though? That’s all him, and now, after a year and multiple sessions, it’s all Tim.

It makes sense, after all. Duncan spent the better part of two decades showing the world as little emotion as possible, but those who shared the court with him knew the truth — that, quiet as it’s kept, that placid exterior covered up the kind of roaring fuel-injected beast of a machine that could annihilate just about any competition that lined up against him. [/restrict]