The Mavericks brutally garroted the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the NBA playoffs 4 to 1, officially marking the end of the Spurs Dynasty. The Spurs had been a constant threat to win the NBA title, but that era is over. As a native son of San Antonio, I choose to remember the good times. The Dynasty netted 12 straight playoff appearances, 4 NBA championships, and back-to-back MVP awards for Tim Duncan.
But like all good things, the Dynasty has come to an end. It had it all: a ruthless despot, great men, excitement, a real rival in the Lakers, and a “rival” that was never more than a harmless nuisance (ha ha, suck it Suns fans).
Many believe that this Spurs Dynasty began with the Spurs drafting Tim Duncan with the number 1 overall pick in 1997; one season removed from winning 59 games in 1995-96. While that was vital, the real moment that marked the beginning of the Dynasty was then-General Manager and VP of Basketball Operations Greg Popovich’s decision to fire coach Bob Hill during the 1996-97 NBA season. This ruthless decision was a preview of how Pop’s teams would play defense: without mercy.
Popovich deposed Hill after a 3-16 start in 1996, but that start had more to do with injuries to David Robinson, Sean Elliott, Chuck Person, and Vinnie Del Negro. Hill had won 122 games in his first two years as head coach of the Spurs, but with Tim Duncan on the horizon as a potential number 1 overall pick Popovich decided to make sure the Spurs were in the lottery. He named himself coach and shut down the Admiral for the season. The heavens smiled on Pop’s devious plan, the Spurs won the lottery and drafted the heavens’ favored son, Tim Duncan. In 1997-98, the Spurs, with a healthy Admiral and draft pick Tim Duncan, began a run of consecutive playoff appearances that continues to this day.
The Twin Towers were a force to be reckoned with, winning titles in 1999 and 2003. However, Popovich was as good at reloading an NBA roster with veteran role players as he was ruthless anyone in NBA history and he kept the Spurs winning titles even after Robinson’s retirement in 2003. Over the years Popovich brought in the likes of Robert Horry, Cherokee Parks, Danny Ferry (yes, the Spurs were so good even Duke alumni won rings!), Michael Finley, Avery Johnson, Speedy Claxton, Steven Jackson, Malik Rose and the immortal Kevin Willis. But the Spurs were also masters at the draft, taking “chances” on foreign players such as Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili well outside of the lottery. Sadly, time has taken its toll on the Spurs big three- Duncan, Ginobili and Parker- and it now appears that no amount of reloading can pick up the slack.
The Spurs were truly one of the premier organizations in all of professional sports. Smothering defense, machine-like precision and offensive efficiency were their trademarks. They won, they sold out games (even in the horrid Alamo Dome seasons), their players didn’t get in trouble, throw hissy fits in the media, or demand trades. I can only smile when I look back at the embarrassment of riches that is the Spurs resume since 1997 . . . and laugh when Scott Howard curses them.