5:11 PM EDT, May 31, 2013
It was just a short blurb on most websites a few days ago.
"Tim Duncan and wife Amy are getting a divorce."
For Orlando Magic fans, the breakup happened about a dozen years too late.
If not for Duncan's love affair with Amy, the San Antonio Spurs may be the Magic and the Magic may be the Spurs. The NBA's balance of power over the last decade might be completely different, and the Magic perhaps would have multiple championship banners hanging in the Amway Center. And, who knows, the Spurs may be the worst team in the league and getting ready for the NBA draft lottery right now instead of the NBA Finals.
It all goes back to that fateful time at the turn of the century in the summer of 2000 when the Magic were courting three free agents – Duncan, Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady. It was an exciting period in Magic history – a time when Orlando was a destination point for free agents and former Magic GM John Gabriel had brilliantly cleared the cap space to pursue them.
Hill and Duncan – both clients of agent Lon Babby – visited Orlando together and were blown away by Gabriel, the Magic and the entire recruiting process.
When Duncan and Hill arrived for their visit, they were greeted at the airport by a banner half the size of a football field. On the banner was the Orlando version of Michelangelo's "The Creation of Adam" that the great artist painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The Orlando version had Duncan in a Magic uniform stretching down from heaven to touch hands with Hill in a Magic uniform. In between the two hands was the one word message: "Believe."
During the visit, the two players were put up in the luxurious Eisner Suite in the palatial Grand Floridian hotel, and the entire city, it seems, was in on the plan to make them love Orlando. Disney gave the Magic after-hours access to the theme parks where Grant Hill and newlywed wife Tamia giddily rode Space Mountain over and over again. Duncan and Hill watched the fireworks at Epcot and were amazed at the end of the pyrotechnic display. Spelled out in lights on the big ball in the middle of the lake at Epcot was this message: "Grant Us Tim."
The next day was a pool party at Magic CEO Bob Vander Weide's 17,000-square-foot estate in Isleworth. The sprawling estate was surrounded by a pristine Florida landscape -- the 17th tee at Isleworth Country Club on one side and the picturesque Butler Chain of Lakes on the other. According to an account of the party by former Sentinel sportswriter Tim Povtak, there were 10 golf carts parked outside that would take everyone to the No. 5 tee box, where it just so happened (nudge, wink) that Tiger Woods was on the tee box. Woods greeted Hill and Duncan and then reportedly hit his shot on the par 3 to within inches of the hole. That's when Magic veteran Monty Williams cracked, "Tiger, you need to keep that arm a little straighter on your backswing."
Marc Scott, Duncan's personal assistant, told Duncan that evening, "Tim, this is where you need to be." Magic officials were beside themselves when Duncan canceled his flight the next morning and decided to stay another day to look at houses with a real estate agent. Babby, Duncan's agent, told Gabriel, "I think you guys are winning him over."
There was one problem, though; the Magic apparently weren't winning over Duncan's longtime girlfriend Amy Sherrill.
At the time, Sherrill asked Orlando Coach Doc Rivers if she would occasionally be allowed on team flights to games. Rivers reportedly informed her that, like most teams, only players and staff travel on the team plane. This reportedly did not sit well with Sherrill, who knew that Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich was agreeable to the occasional request from players to bring significant others and family members on road trips.
Sherrill apparently was not impressed with the Magic's policy or the recruiting trip in general. According to column written by the Sentinel's Brian Schmitz, after Amy spent some time on the visit with Kris Rivers, Doc's wife, the coach received an ominous phone call.
"I think," Kris told Doc, "you have a problem."
Duncan then flew back to San Antonio, where the Spurs put the full-court press on keeping him. David Robinson, the Spurs' other superstar, even cut his Hawaiian vacation short to fly back home and try and convince Duncan to stay.
Everybody knows the rest of the story. Hill signed with the Magic and spent seven snake-bit, injury-plagued years in Orlando. McGrady, too, signed and became yet another of the franchise's spoiled, disgruntled superstars.
Meanwhile, Duncan remained in San Antonio, where he has become one of the greatest NBA players of all-time and the cornerstone of the Spurs' four championships.
He would marry Amy Sherrill a short time after he returned on his recruiting trip from Orlando – a matrimonial union that is apparently about to come to a messy end.
If anybody deserves alimony during this divorce, it's the Orlando Magic.
At the very least, they should get custody of at least a couple of San Antonio's championship trophies.
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