Duncan is always praised as having the best fundamentals of any big man in the NBA, but that says more about the decline of fundamentals in U.S. basketball. He's not particularly huge for an inside NBA player at 6-11, he didn't pay attention to basketball until high school, and the Virgin Islands are not a basketball hotbed, and probably didn't offer anybody close to his size in his age group.
Yet, by his sophomore year at Wake Forest, Duncan was college defensive player of the year and clearly an NBA lottery pick. But he'd promised his dying mother he'd get his college degree, so he played for free for two more years.
Matthew Yglesias has a good rant in Slate, The Most Ignored Dynasty in Sports, about how the fact that nobody outside of central Texas cares about how quietly excellent the Spurs have been for, roughly, ever shows that, despite what we might claim to admire, Americans actually like show-offs, hoopla, and drama queens. (Parker appears to have been trying to generate a whoop-tee-do via his tumultuous marriage to Desperate Housewives actress Eva Longoria, but that comes up more in the entertainment than sports gossip columns.)
It’s the popularity of the [Oklahoma City] Thunder, the Spurs’ opponents in the Western Conference Finals, that proves San Antonio’s lack of sex appeal isn’t a consequence of geography.