The San Antonio Spurs have a long tradition of success since beginning to play more than 50 years ago. Sitting in the Southwest Division of the Western Conference, the Spurs have 22 division titles, 6 conference titles and 5 NBA Championships. George Gervin led the franchise to early success, but I personally give much of the accolades to current coach Gregg Popovich, who was assistant from 1988-1992 and head coach since 1996. His team-oriented focused style of play has featured the likes of David Robinson, Steve Kerr, Robet Horry to the Big Three of Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan. Add in Kawhi Leonard and the franchise hasn’t lacked for star power. Coach Popovich has instilled the “there isn’t an I in team” mentality, which I deem as paramount in their success through the years.
David Robinson’s one of the top players in franchise history, but for me, it’s clear that without the addition of Tim Duncan in 1997, Tony Parker in 2001 and Manu Ginobili in 2002, Robinson likely would’ve retired without an NBA Championship to his name. During Robinson’s first NBA title season in the shortened 1998-1999 campaign, he averaged 15.8 points and 10 rebounds in 49 games. Tim Duncan led the way in just his second season, averaging 21.7 points during the regular season and NBA Finals MVP in the Spurs’ 4-to-1 triumph over the Knicks. The “Twin Towers Era” began with a title and ended with another in 2003 by a 4-to-2 margin over the Nets. With Duncan claiming another Finals’ MVP, I believe he entrenched himself as a Hall of Famer at the tender age of 26, with numerous stellar seasons ahead.
Joining Duncan during this time was the start of “The Big Three” era. With Robinson at the end of the line after a remarkable career, the influx of Parker and Ginobili began the next great time in Spurs basketball. Ginobili was solid in a mainly backup role in 2003. Started half the games in the 2003-2004 campaign and became an All-Star in the Spurs’ title run of 2004-2005, averaging 16 points in 30 minutes per game. Parker was a starter from the get-go as a 19-year old in 2001-2002. Steadily increasing his production, he was the catalyst behind the championship run in 2004-2005. Unselfish, Parker distributed the ball to the tune of 6.1 assists per game, while adding 16.6 per contest. Although Duncan had his lowest scoring average of 20.3 points per game, while appearing in only 66 games, he was the leader of the team.
Entering the playoffs after a 59-23 record and the number two seed behind the Phoenix Suns, the Spurs went to work, easily dismantling the Nuggets in 5 games. Seattle was the next victim, going down in 6, before what I thought would be a battle for the Western Conference title. That was not the case. Although all but one game was decided by less than ten points, it never felt as though the Suns had a chance, falling to the Spurs in 5 games.
Facing the defending NBA champion Detroit Pistons, the Spurs got off to a hot start, taking the first two behind the hot shooting of Ginobili. The momentum clearly went to the Pistons, blowing out the Spurs in the next two and I among others, believed the series was over. The key to the turnout was a late hoop by Robert Horry to seal a win and take the series back to San Antonio up three games to two. Although unable to dispose the Pistons in 6, Finals MVP Tim Duncan, again took over, scoring 25 points in a 7-point victory. With the MVP, Duncan became the fourth in the league history to claim that honor three times.
The Spurs won another title in 2007 and added more to the mix in 2011 with 20-year old Kawhi Leonard. He was a role player for the 2014 title team, averaging 12.8 points per game. Duncan, still solid at 37, but clearly near the end of a stellar career, averaged 15.1 per game during the season. Leonard shocked the basketball world in the finals, taking over the last three games, dropping over 20 each time in blowouts over the Heat. The 4-1 triumph was the fifth championship in franchise history.
Leonard became the face of the franchise and was an all-star two times before his departure to the Raptors for the 2018-2019 season. While not winning any addition titles since 2014, the Spurs continued to add key pieces to the mix, including LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan. I expect the unselfish, team-oriented nature instilled in the franchise to continue to bring success and additional championship runs moving forward.