San Antonio Spurs

When a person thinks of successful NBA teams, the first two teams that come to mind are usually the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. They have 17 and 16 championships respectively. After the two of them there is a major drop off to the Bulls who have won 6. People will often think of the Bulls as one of the most successful team largely because of the dominance and thrill that Michael Jordan brought to the game.

A team that can often be forgotten about as one of the most storied franchises in the NBA is the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs entered the NBA when the ABA and the NBA merged in 1976. Of the ABA teams that are left in the NBA, only the Spurs won a championship in the ABA. They have followed that title up with four NBA championships all since the 1999 season.

san antonio spurs present logo

Present logo of the San Antonio Spurs

The thing that sets the Spurs apart from the Celtics, Lakers, and Bulls is that they have never had to go through a time of rebuilding. The Spurs have been in the NBA for 35 seasons, and they have only missed the playoffs four times in that span. They have won the most division titles in the past 35 years. And they and the Bulls are the only teams in NBA history to have multiple trips to the Finals and never lose a series. The Spurs are the ultimate model of a consistently successful franchise.
The Spurs began their history in Dallas as the Dallas Chaparrals. After seven seasons in Dallas, the team moved to San Antonio and took on their new name the Spurs. Not long after moving to San Antonio and merging into the NBA, the Spurs were led by their dynamic scorer George Gervin. Gervin developed a nickname “The Iceman” for his play. In the 1978 season, Gervin was competing with another player to win the scoring title for the season. His competition played well in the final game of the season which left The Iceman needing to score 58 points to win the scoring title. Gervin did just that to win the scoring title.
Under his leadership the Spurs were consistently one of the better teams in the league. Oddly enough they were in the Eastern Conference at the time. After “The Iceman” began to age, the Spurs began to taper off slightly. The late 80′s were the only time in the Spurs history that had consecutive poor seasons. The bright spot is that they were getting top draft picks. And with one of their picks in 1987 they selected David Robinson out of the Navy. The only problem with selecting him is that he was going to fulfill two years of service in the Navy before joining the Spurs.
The Spurs took that risk anyway, and David Robinson turned out to be worth the wait. No one doubted that David Robinson would help the Spurs improve and become an elite team again. No one expected it to happen in one season. The Spurs improved drastically from being at the bottom of the league to finishing with a 56-26 record while winning their division and returning to the playoffs. The Spurs were clearly led by David Robinson who was hands down the rookie of the year due to his 24.3 points per game and 12 rebounds per game.
Robinson was the centerpiece to the Spurs franchise from his emergence in the league in 1989 until he retired in 2003. Robinson would be the cog that allowed the Spurs to bring their first championship to San Antonio. The Spurs won the Finals in 1999 behind the play of Robinson and his heir apparent Tim Duncan. Duncan was drafted in 1997. The Spurs only had the chance to draft him because the prior season Robinson was hurt almost the whole season, and the Spurs finished with the third worst record in the league.
The Spurs would thrive behind the twin towers of Robinson and Duncan. The two would lead the team to their first championship in 1999 and their second championship in 2003, Robinson’s last season. Because the Spurs were able to draft Duncan, they would not suffer a setback when Robinson retired. They also had been retooling the team mainly through the draft to prepare for the days after Robinson.
During the 2003-2004 season, the Spurs began to play behind their big three players Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli. Parker began starting at point guard and was a big part of their 2003 championship. Ginobli had begun to break through as an elite player in the league. These three would help lead the Spurs to titles every other year. The Spurs won championships with them in 2003, 2005, and 2007.
The Spurs keep chugging along as a team to beat in the West. Everyone keeps expecting the Spurs to see a drop off because of the age of the stars. Duncan, Parker, and Ginobli keep playing at high levels when healthy. The Spurs surprised the league when they finished with the best record in the West last season. The Spurs experienced a humiliating loss to the Grizzlies in the first round last season, but part of that can be attributed to Ginobli not being 100 percent during the playoffs.
The Spurs continue to surprise the league with their level of high play with their older play. They are currently in second play in the West. They will have to prove the league wrong again by proving the doubters wrong and going deep into the playoffs, something they have consistently done since they entered the league.