San Antonio Spurs
|San Antonio Spurs|
|Founded||1967 (joined NBA in 1976)|
|Dallas Chaparrals||1967–1970, 1971–1973|
|San Antonio Spurs||1973–present|
|City||San Antonio, Texas|
|Team colors||Black, Silver, White|
|General Manager||R.C. Buford|
|Head coach||Gregg Popovich|
|D-League affl.||Austin Toros|
The Spurs are one of four former American Basketball Association teams (along with the Nets, Pacers, and Nuggets) to remain intact in the NBA after the 1976 ABA-NBA merger and is the only former ABA team to have won an NBA championship. The Spurs have won four NBA championships, more than any NBA franchise except the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and Chicago Bulls. The Spurs' perfect record in NBA Finals series is surpassed only by the Chicago Bulls, who have won six without a loss; the Bulls and Spurs are the only two teams to maintain perfect records through multiple Finals series. As of July 2009, the Spurs rank third among active franchises for the highest winning percentage in NBA history; they have only missed the playoffs 4 times as an NBA franchise.
In their 33 NBA seasons, since 1976–1977, the Spurs have captured 17 division titles, which gives the Spurs the most division titles in the NBA during that 33-year span (the Lakers are second with 16). They have made the playoffs in 19 of the last 20 seasons, and have not missed the playoffs in the 12 seasons since Tim Duncan came to the Spurs in 1997.
The Spurs in San Antonio
The San Antonio area shares a special bond with the Spurs almost unmatched in the rest of the NBA, partially due to this being the city's only team in any of the four major U.S. professional sports. Spurs players are active members of the San Antonio community, and many former Spurs are still active in San Antonio, like David Robinson with Carver Academy and George Gervin with the George Gervin Youth Center.
In part because of this community involvement, Spurs fans have been among the most loyal in the NBA. The Spurs set several NBA attendance records while playing at the Alamodome, including the largest crowd ever for a NBA Finals game in 1999, and the Spurs continue to sell out the smaller, more intimate AT&T Center (formerly SBC Center) on a regular basis. The Spurs' rallying cry of "Go Spurs, Go!" has endeared itself to the city of San Antonio, and the phrase pops up all over the city as the season progresses into the playoffs and the Spurs inch closer to a possible title.
San Antonio has also garnered praise for the way its citizens celebrate Spurs championships. When the Spurs win a title, San Antonians jam up the streets downtown, march around waving flags, throw confetti and honk car horns until dawn, but with little incidence of crime. The team floats down the San Antonio Riverwalk on boats where fans can view their champions.
A unique part of every Spurs season comes in February when the team is forced into an extended road-trip due to the occupation of its arena by the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. This is informally known as the "Rodeo Road Trip," and a time that typically starts the Spurs' run to the playoffs; indeed, starting in 1999 the Spurs have consistently posted phenomenal road records during this period, including an NBA-record longest single road trip winning streak (8 games, achieved in 2003).
As of the 2007–2008 season, the Spurs have one of the highest winning percentages of any professional team, in any sport, since the turn of the millennium.
The ABA years: Dallas Chaparrals (1967–1973)
The San Antonio Spurs started out as the Dallas Chaparrals of the original version of the American Basketball Association (ABA) in 1967. Led by Player/Coach Cliff Hagan the Dallas Chaparrals were one of 11 teams to take the floor in the inaugural season of the upstart ABA. The Chaps second season was a bit of a disappointment, as the team finished in 4th place with a mediocre 41–37 record. In the playoffs the Chaparrals quickly fell to the New Orleans Buccaneers. The team suffered from poor attendance and general disinterest in Dallas. In fact, during the 1970–71 season, the name "Dallas" was dropped in favor of "Texas" and an attempt was made to make the team a regional one, playing games in Fort Worth, Texas, at the Tarrant County Coliseum, as well as Lubbock, Texas, at the Lubbock Municipal Coliseum, but this proved a failure and the team returned full-time to Dallas in time for the 1971–72 season, splitting their games at Moody Coliseum and Dallas Convention Center Arena.
The ABA years: Coming to San Antonio (1973–1976)
After missing the playoffs for the first time in their existence in the 1972–73 season, the team was put up for sale. The team was acquired by a group of 36 San Antonio business men, led by Angelo Drossos, John Schaefer, and Red McCombs who actually leased the team from the original Dallas ownership group, relocated the team to San Antonio and renamed them the San Antonio Gunslingers. However, before they even played a game the name was changed to San Antonio Spurs. The team's primary colors were changed from the red, white, and blue of the Chaparrals to the now familiar silver and black motif of the Spurs.
In the first game at the HemisFair Arena the Spurs would lose to the San Diego Conquistadors, despite attracting a noisy crowd of 6,000 fans. A smothering defense was the team's image, as they held opponents less than 100 points an ABA record 49 times. The early Spurs were led by ABA veteran James Silas, and the team would get stronger as the season went on as they twice took advantage of the Virginia Squires, acquiring Swen Nater, who would go on to win Rookie of the Year, in November, and "The Iceman" George Gervin in January. The ABA tried to halt the Gervin deal, claiming it was detrimental to the league, but a judge would rule in the Spurs' favor, and Gervin made his Spurs debut on February 7. The Spurs would go on to finish with a 45–39 record, good for 3rd place in the Western Division. In the playoffs, the Spurs would battle the Indiana Pacers to the bitter end before falling in 7 games. Following the season, the ownership decided to complete the purchase and to keep the team in San Antonio permanently.
The team quickly made themselves at home at HemisFair Arena, playing to increasingly large and raucous crowds. Despite a respectable 17–10 start during the 1974–75 season, Coach Tom Nissalke was fired as owners become tired of the Spurs' slow defensive style of games. He would be replaced by Bob Bass, who stated that the Spurs would have an entirely new playing style: "It is my belief that you cannot throw a set offense at another professional team for 48 minutes. You've got to let them play some schoolyard basketball." George Gervin and James Silas took that style to heart, as the Spurs became an exciting fast breaking team on the way to a solid 51–33 record, good enough for 2nd place in the West. Gervin: "Our whole theory was that you shoot 100 times, we'll shoot 107." However, in the playoffs the Spurs would fall to the Indiana Pacers in 6 games.
Even though playoff success would elude the team, the Spurs had suddenly found themselves among the top teams in the ABA. In June 1976, the ABA-NBA merger took place, moving San Antonio's sole professional sports franchise into a new league. The Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and New York Nets moved to the NBA for the 1976–77 season.
The Spurs and the other three ABA teams agreed to pay the owners of two other strong ABA teams that folded instead of joining the NBA. John Y. Brown, Jr., the owner of the Kentucky Colonels, received $3 million, which he used to purchase the NBA's Buffalo Braves and later the Boston Celtics, after selling star guard Louie Dampier to the Spurs. The owners of the Spirits of St. Louis received a portion of all television profits during their NBA tenure, which amounts to roughly 1/7th of the Spurs' television profit every year. This agreement has placed particular financial pressure on the Spurs and the other three former ABA teams.
Into the NBA: The George Gervin years (1976–1985)
Although there was some initial skepticism in league circles regarding the potential success and talent levels of the incoming ABA teams, the Spurs would prove worthy of NBA inclusion during the 1976–77 season with a record of 44–38, good for a tie for fourth place overall in the Eastern Conference. This was done in spite of significant handicaps the NBA imposed on the incoming ABA teams, limiting their draft picks and television revenues during their early time in the merged league.
During the 1977–78 season, George Gervin and David Thompson of the Denver Nuggets battled all season for the NBA scoring title. On the final day of the season, Thompson took the lead by scoring 73 points in an afternoon game against the Detroit Pistons. That night Gervin knew that he needed 58 points against the Jazz in New Orleans. Gervin got off to a good start by scoring 20 points in the 1st Quarter. In the 2nd, The Iceman was even better, setting a single period record with 33 points. Early on in the 3rd period Gervin scored his 58 points on the way to 63 capturing the scoring title. While Gervin was lighting up the scoreboard the Spurs were winning the Central Division with a 52–30 record. However, in the playoffs the Spurs would be stunned in 6 games by the Washington Bullets despite an outstanding series from Gervin who averaged 33.2 ppg. The following season in the 1979 Conference Finals the Spurs led the series 3–1 but the Bullets came back to win the last 3 games and came from behind to win the 7th game 107–105 handing the Spurs an absolute heartbreaking loss. The Spurs would have to wait another 20 years to make it to their first NBA finals.
The Spurs would go on to capture 5 division titles in their first 7 years in the NBA and became a perennial playoff participant. However, in the playoffs, the Spurs would never find a break, losing to teams like the Washington Bullets, the Boston Celtics, the Houston Rockets, and the Los Angeles Lakers.
As the 80s progressed, the Spurs would see their shares of highs and lows. For the first few seasons of the decade, the Spurs continued their success of the 1970s with records of 52–30 in 1980–81, 48–34 in 1981–82, and 53–29 in 1982–83. Despite their regular season success, the Spurs were unable to win any NBA championships, losing in the Western Conference playoffs to the Houston Rockets in the first round of the 1981 and the Los Angeles Lakers in in 4 games 1982 and in 6 games in the 1983 Western Finals despite getting both wins at the Forum in the 1983 series. They lost every home game in both series in 1982 and 1983 vs the Lakers as Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and co were too strong. The Spurs didn't make the conference finals until 1995.
After the 1984–85 season, Gervin, who arguably had been the Spurs' biggest star, was traded to the Chicago Bulls in what effectively signaled the end of the era that began when the Spurs first moved to San Antonio.
Difficult years (1985–1989)
The next four seasons were a dark time in Spurs' history, with the team having a combined record of 115–213 from 1985–86 until 1988–89. The losing seasons and dwindling attendance often caused the Spurs to be mentioned as a potential candidate for relocation to another city. The lone bright spot during this period was the Spurs being awarded the top pick in the 1987 NBA Draft through NBA Draft Lottery. The Spurs used this selection on United States Naval Academy standout David Robinson. Although drafted in 1987, the Spurs would have to wait until the 1989–90 season to see Robinson actually play, due to a two-year commitment he had to serve with the United States Navy. Although there was speculation that Robinson might choose not to sign with the Spurs and to become a free agent once his Navy commitment ended, Robinson decided in the end to come to San Antonio.
Although the 1988–89 season was the second-worst in Spurs history at 21–61, it was notable for several reasons. It was the first season of full ownership for Red McCombs, who was an original investor in the team and helped solidify local ownership for the team. Additionally, the 1988–89 season featured the debut of Larry Brown as the Spurs head coach who moved to San Antonio after winning the NCAA National Championship with the University of Kansas in 1988.
Mr. Robinson's neighborhood (1989–1997)
David Robinson finally joined the Spurs for the 1989–90 season after the end of his Naval commitment. While it was generally thought his arrival would make the Spurs respectable again, no one expected what happened in his rookie season. Led by Robinson, 1989 draftee Sean Elliott and free agent acquisition Terry Cummings, the Spurs achieved the then-biggest one-season turnaround in NBA history, finishing with a record of 56–26. They also jumped all the way to first place in the Midwest Division. The Spurs eventually lost in the Western Conference semifinals after losing a seven-game series to the eventual Western Conference champion Portland Trail Blazers. Robinson had one of the most successful rookie seasons for a center in NBA history, finishing the season as the unanimous Rookie of the Year while averaging 24.3 points and 12.0 rebounds.
The Spurs began the 1990s with great optimism. The team became a perennial playoff presence, although unable to advance further than the second round of the NBA Playoffs under Brown's tutelage. Late in the 1991–92 season, McCombs fired Brown and replaced him with Bob Bass who finished the season as interim head coach. Without a healthy David Robinson, the Spurs were swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the Phoenix Suns. McCombs made national headlines during the summer of 1992 with the hiring of former University of Nevada-Las Vegas head coach Jerry Tarkanian. The Tarkanian experiment proved a flop, as the coach was fired 20 games into the 1992–93 season with the Spurs record at 9–11. After Rex Hughes filled the coaching shoes for one game, NBA veteran John Lucas was named head coach. It was Lucas's first NBA coaching assignment although he had gained recognition in league circles for his success in helping NBA players rehab from drug abuse.
The Lucas era started out successfully. His coaching propelled the team to a 39–22 finish over the rest of the regular season, and the team reached the Western Conference semi-finals, losing to the Phoenix Suns. The 1992–93 season also marked the last that the Spurs would play in HemisFair Arena. In 1993, local businessman Peter M. Holt and a group of 22 investors purchased the Spurs from Red McCombs for $75 million.
The following season, the Spurs' first in the newly built Alamodome, Lucas led the Spurs to a 55–27 record but the team suffered a loss in the first round of the playoffs to the Utah Jazz, which led to the immediate firing of Lucas as head coach. Prior to the season the Spurs traded fan-favorite Elliott to the Detroit Pistons in return for rebounding star Dennis Rodman.
Lucas was replaced by former Pacers coach Bob Hill for the 1994–95 season, which would turn out to be the Spurs' most successful regular season until 2006. Elliott returned to the team after an uneventful season with the Pistons, and the team finished with the NBA's best record at 62–20. David Robinson was named the league's Most Valuable Player. The Spurs reached the Western Conference Finals, but lost to the eventual NBA Champion Houston Rockets 4–2. After the pregame MVP award ceremony honoring David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon dominated the game, outscoring Robinson 42–22 in a narrow 1 point Rockets win. The Spurs lost Game 2 at home but took Games 3 and 4 in Houston. Game 5 of the series was highlighted by the famous Dream Shake move by Hakeem Olajuwon in Game 5 at the Alamodome the Spurs lost 113–95 in front of 35,000 fans and lost the series in Houston in Game 6. Throughout the season, and particularly in the playoffs, there appeared to be friction developing between Rodman and several Spurs' teammates, most notably Robinson, and Rodman was traded after the season to the Chicago Bulls who would win the next 3 titles.
The Spurs finished the next season (1995–96) under Hill at 59–23 and lost in the Western Conference semi-finals to the Jazz. Few observers could have predicted how far the Spurs would fall during the 1996–97 season. An injury limited Robinson to just six games during the season, and Elliott also missed more than half the season due to injury. Without Robinson and Elliott, the Spurs were a rudderless team, and ended the season with a 20–62 record, the worst in franchise history--and to date, the last time they have missed the playoffs. Hill only lasted 18 games as coach that season, eventually being fired and replaced by Spurs General Manager Gregg Popovich, who had also served a stint under Brown as an assistant coach.
Although the 1996–97 season was not successful on the court for the Spurs, the offseason proved to be the opposite. With the third-worst record in the league, the Spurs won the NBA's draft lottery, which gave them the top pick in the 1997 NBA Draft. The Spurs used their pick to select Wake Forest University product and consensus All-American Tim Duncan.
The championship era (1999–present)
The Twin Towers: Duncan and Robinson (1997–2003)
Duncan quickly emerged as a force in the NBA during the 1997–98 season, averaging 21.1 points and 11.9 rebounds per game as a power forward. He was named First Team All-NBA while winning Rookie of the Year honors. The team ended up at 56–26, breaking their own record in 1989–90 for the biggest single season improvement for wins, but once again lost to the Jazz in the Western Conference semifinals. While both Duncan and Robinson played low-post roles, the two seamlessly meshed on the court. The March 14, 1998, game against the Chicago Bulls set the Spurs' current regular-season home attendance record. An Alamodome crowd of 37,492 came to see Michael Jordan's last visit as a Bull, as he led the team to its third-straight and most recent championship.
With a healthy Robinson and Duncan and the additions of playoff veterans such as Mario Elie and Jerome Kersey, the Spurs looked forward to the 1998–99 season. Prior to the beginning of training camps, however, the NBA owners, led by commissioner David Stern, locked out the players in order to force a new collective bargaining agreement with the NBA Players Association (NBAPA). The season was delayed over three months until resolution on a new labor agreement was reached in January 1999.
Playing a shortened 50-game season, the Spurs ended up with a 37–13 record. The team was just as dominant in the playoffs, rolling through the Western Conference with a record of 11–1. In the NBA Finals, they faced the New York Knicks and, on June 25, 1999, won the series and the franchise's first NBA Championship in Game 5 (final score: 78–77) on the Knicks' home court, Madison Square Garden. Duncan was named the Finals MVP. The Spurs set a new NBA Finals one-game attendance record when 39,554 fans attended Game 2. The previous record was set only two days earlier, when 39,514 spectators attended Game 1. The Spurs became the first former ABA team to reach the NBA Finals. Their victory was the first NBA title to be won by a former ABA team. The Knicks made history in the Finals as well, becoming the first (and to this date, the only) 8th seed to ever make the NBA Finals, which meant the Spurs in 1999 are the only team to have defeated two #8 seed teams en route to winning a championship, having had the best record in the NBA that year.
Coming off their first NBA Championship the Spurs were still among the best teams in the West and battling for first place in the Midwest Division during the 1999–2000 season. On March 14 the Spurs playoff spirits got a lift when Sean Elliott, who received a kidney transplant prior to the season, returned and played in the last 19 games. As the season wound down Tim Duncan would suffer a knee injury and the Spurs finished in second place with a 53–29 record. Without Duncan, the Spurs would be knocked out of the playoffs by the Phoenix Suns in four games. The long-term viability of the Spurs franchise in San Antonio was, however, achieved during the 1999–2000 season, as Bexar County voters approved increases on car rental and hotel taxes which would allow for the construction of a new arena near the Freeman Coliseum.
The Spurs finished with 58–24 records for both the 2000–01 and 2001–02 seasons but found themselves suffering playoff ousters in both seasons from the eventual NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers getting swept from the 2001 Conference Finals and losing in 5 games during the 2002 Second Round.
2002-03: Champions Again
Entering the 2002–03 season, the team knew it would be memorable for at least two reasons, as David Robinson announced that it would be his last in the NBA and the Spurs would begin play at their new arena, the SBC Center, named after telecommunications giant SBC, whose corporate headquarters are located in San Antonio (SBC became AT&T after its acquisition of its former parent company). To mark this occasion, the Spurs revamped their "Fiesta Colors" logo and reverted to the familiar silver and black motif (though, during the time of the Fiesta logo, the uniform remained silver and black).
This version of the Spurs was very different from the team that had won the title a few years earlier. Second-year French star Tony Parker, drafted by the Spurs in the first round of the 2001 NBA Draft, was now the starting point guard for the Spurs. The squad featured a variety of newly acquired three-point shooters, including Stephen Jackson, Danny Ferry, Bruce Bowen, Steve Kerr, Steve Smith and Argentina product Manu Ginóbili, a 1999 second-round draft choice playing in his first NBA season. After splitting their first two games on the road, the Spurs christened the SBC Center in style on November 1st by beating the Toronto Raptors 91-72. The Spurs would not get off to a flying start as they had a 19-13 record heading into January, which had them 7 games out of first place in the Midwest Division. In January the Spurs began to gel and seemed prepped to make a run, when they were forced to embark on a 9-game road trip from January 25th to February 16th while the rodeo was in town. However, it would be hardly a bump in the road for the charging Spurs who won 8 of the 9 and began to climb their way to first place. The Spurs would go on to erase their 7-game deficit and finish the season in a flatfooted tie with the Dallas Mavericks for the best record in the NBA. Thanks to a tiebreaker the Spurs would win their 3rd straight Division title as Tim Duncan claimed his second straight NBA MVP. In the playoffs, the Spurs defeated the Suns, Lakers and Dallas Mavericks en route to facing the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals. The series against the Nets marked the first time two former ABA teams would play each other for the NBA Championship. The Spurs won the series 4–2, giving them their second NBA Championship in franchise history. Duncan was named both the NBA Regular Season and Finals MVP for the season. Robinson would retire after this season. During the finals, the New Jersey Devils shut out the Anaheim Mighty Ducks 3–0 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. By winning the NBA Championship, the Spurs denied New Jersey from having both NBA and NHL championships in the same year.
Coming off their second NBA Championship, the retirement of David Robinson left a void in San Antonio's daunting defense, while playoff hero Steve Kerr and veteran forward Danny Ferry also sailed off into the sunset. Meanwhile, backup point guard Speedy Claxton was wooed away by the Warriors, and Stephen Jackson bolted for Atlanta. Fortunately, the Spurs had a large amount of cap room, and they used it to import several replacements. The most notable and important was Rasho Nesterovic, who was to fill Robinson's shoes in the Alamo City and chip in double-figure scoring. Hedo Turkoglu, acquired in a salary dump when Sacramento got Brad Miller, also was brought in to fill a key role as a scoring forward to replace Jackson.
The Big Three: Duncan, Ginóbili and Parker (2003–present)
The Spurs, playing with 9 new players, struggled early as they missed the presence of David Robinson while the new players struggled to fit in, as they held a 9–10 record on December 3. However, the Spurs would turn it around, as they ended December on 13-game winning streak and quickly climbed back to the top of the NBA standings. The Spurs would battle all year for the top spot in the Western Conference, as they ended the season on another strong note winning their final 11 games. However, they would fall 1 game short of a division title and the best record in the West, posting a record of 57–25. In the playoffs, the Spurs remained hot as they swept the Memphis Grizzlies in 4 straight games. In the second round, the Spurs found themselves in another showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers. The Spurs' winning streak would continue as they captured the first two games at home, bringing their winning streak from the end of the regular season up to 17 games. However, as the series shifted to Los Angeles, the Spurs would suddenly have trouble finding the basket, as they lost both games as the Lakers evened the series. The series was playing out similarly to the match-up between the two teams a year earlier. In Game 5 at the SBC Center, Tim Duncan seemingly delivered the Spurs a 73–72 win as he gave the Spurs a lead with a dramatic shot with just 0.4 seconds remaining. However, the Lakers' Derek Fisher would launch a game-winner as time expired which would go in, giving the Lakers a stunning 74–73 win to take a 3–2 series lead. The Spurs protested the shot, arguing that the clock started late, which the Spurs claimed was why replays showed Fisher got off the shot in time. An AP report and the three officials in attendance stated that replays showed the shot was released by Fisher before time expired. The officials, however, could not consider the Spurs' claim that the clock did not start immediately when the ball was inbounded. After the stunning loss, the Spurs traveled to Los Angeles for Game 6, where they lost the game and the series. The Spurs spent the following offseason tweaking the team.
2004–05: 3rd Championship
After their disappointing second round collapse, the Spurs looked to regain the NBA crown. With the acquisition of guard Brent Barry from Seattle, the Spurs would get off to a quick start, posting a 12-3 record in November. The Spurs would stay hot through December as they established a 25-6 record entering the New Year. With the later additions of center Nazr Mohammed from New York (acquired in a midseason trade of Malik Rose), and veteran forward Glenn Robinson from free agency, alongside regulars Bruce Bowen, Robert Horry, Tony Parker, Manu Ginóbili, and Tim Duncan, the Spurs would be near the top in the Western Conference all season, battling the Phoenix Suns for the best record in the NBA. Just as it appeared the Spurs would cruise toward the playoffs their season suddenly hit a bump in the road when Tim Duncan went down in a March 20th loss to the Detroit Pistons with a sprained ankle. The rest of the way the Spurs would limp home, winning 9 of their last 17 as they held on to the Southwest Division by just one game with a 59-23 record. However, by the time the playoffs rolled around, Duncan was ready to return.
In the postseason, the Spurs' playoff run would get off to a rocky start as they dropped Game 1 to the Denver Nuggets 93-87. The Spurs would quickly turn things around as they would road back to win the next 4 games to win the series in 5, while Duncan got stronger as the series went on, scoring 39 points in a key overtime win in Game 4. In the 2nd round against the Seattle SuperSonics, the Spurs would get off to a fast start by winning the first 2 games at home by double digits. With a shot to take a commanding 3-0 series lead, Tim Duncan missed a final shot at the buzzer as the Sonics held on for a 92-91 win. The Sonics would also win Game 4 to send the series back to San Antonio tied at 2 games apiece. In Game 5, faced with seeing another meltdown, the Spurs looked toward Manu Ginóbili, who took over with a game high 39 points in leading the Spurs to a solid 103-90 win. The Spurs would go on to capture the series in 6 games win a 98-96 win in Seattle to close it out. In the Western Conference Finals, the Spurs would face the Phoenix Suns, and took control early, winning the first 2 games on the road. They would stay hot as the series came home, winning Game 3 to take a 3-0 series lead. However, with a chance to close things out at home, the Spurs saw the Suns hang on for a 111-106 win in Game 4. Back in Phoenix for Game 5, Tim Duncan would take over, leading the Spurs in points with 31 and 15 rebounds as the Spurs won the West with a 101-95 win.
In the NBA Finals, the Spurs would face the defending champion Detroit Pistons. The first 2 games in San Antonio were both Spurs' victories as Manu Ginóbili led the way with 26 and 27 points, in blow out wins by the Spurs. However, as the series shifted to Detroit, the Spurs were the ones who were blown-out, losing Games 3 and 4 big margins as the Pistons evened the series. Faced with a 3rd straight loss in Detroit, the Spurs would play much tougher in Game 5 which would become a classic as the game went into overtime. After scoring 0 points in the first half, Robert Horry had the "hot hand" in the second half overtime as he nailed a clutch 3-point shot with 5 seconds remaining to give the Spurs a dramatic 96-95 win. However with a chance to close things out back at home in Game 6, the Spurs would lose 95-86, setting up the first NBA Finals Game 7 in 11 years. With the whole world watching Game 7 in San Antonio, the game went back and forth and was tied 57-57 after 3 Quarters. In the 4th Quarter, it would be Tim Duncan-time as he had his best game of the series with 25 points as the Spurs pulled away late to win their 3rd NBA Title in 7 years with an 81-74 win in Game 7. Tim Duncan was named Finals MVP, becoming only the fourth player to win the MVP award three times (joining Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, and Michael Jordan). Also, Manu Ginóbili established himself as an NBA star, earning local, national, and international fan praise (particularly in his home country of Argentina) and a berth in that season's All-Star Game.
Coming off their third NBA Championship in six years, there was a sense that the Spurs were the class of the NBA, and once again would be the team to beat in the NBA for the Championship. For the 2005–06 season, the Spurs acquired the two-time All-Star Michael Finley and one-time All Star Nick Van Exel. Not surprisingly, the Spurs would come flying out of the gate, winning 16 of their first 19 games. Once again, the Spurs would get challenged within their own division by the Dallas Mavericks as they held the two best records in the Western Conference all season, battling for first place. In the end, the experience of the Spurs would be the difference as they won the Southwest Division again with a new franchise best record of 63-19.
The Spurs qualified for the playoffs for the ninth year in a row. (Until this season, the Spurs and Indiana Pacers shared the NBA's longest active consecutive playoff appearance streak with nine in a row though San Antonio has qualified for its 10th consecutive appearance during the 2006–07 season, while Indiana's playoff streak ended.) In the playoffs, the Spurs would get a surprisingly tough test from the Sacramento Kings in the first round as they need an overtime win in Game 2 to win the first two games at home, before losing the next two on the road. After regaining control of the series with a 109-98 win in Game 5, the Spurs won the series in six games as they won the finale 105-83 to set up another second round "Lone-Star Showdown" with the Mavericks.
Game 1 would set the tone of the series as it was tight all the way with Tim Duncan scoring a game-high 31 points in an 87-85 win. However, in Game 2, the Spurs were rocked at home, losing by 22 points. As the series shifted to Dallas, the Mavericks gained control winning two close nail-bitters to take a 3-1 series lead. However, the Spurs would not go down without a fight as they rebounded to win a physical war in Game 5 by a score of 98-97, as former Maverick Michael Finley got hit with a low blow from Jason Terry in the final seconds. Terry, who had killed the Spurs all series, would be suspended for Game 6 and the Spurs took full advantage, winning on the road 91-86 to force a 7th game at the AT&T Center. In Game 7, Tim Duncan would lead the way for the Spurs with 41 points and 15 rebounds. However, he was matched by Dirk Nowitzki The Spurs erased an early 20-point deficit and forced the game into overtime. However, in overtime it was not meant to be as the Mavericks were on fire, scoring 15 points to win the game 119-111.
2006–07: 4th Championship
After their disappointing defeat at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, the Spurs entered the 2006–07 season refreshed with renewed determination, as they felt fatigue played a large role as they failed to win a second straight NBA Title. The Spurs began their 2007 season on foreign soil as they opened up their training camp in France in October 2006, which they thought could build camaraderie between players.
With a 97–91 opening-night victory on November 2 at Dallas, Gregg Popovich became the fourth head coach in North American professional sports history to post 10 straight opening night victories (others are: Tom Landry, Bill Fitch and George Allen). The Spurs got off to a strong start in the regular season, winning 11 of their first 14 games, including victories over Dallas, Phoenix and Houston. During that stretch, Tim Duncan became the 98th member of the 15,000-point club at Seattle. However, the Spurs franchise-record 12-game road winning streak came to a halt with a 111–102 loss at Golden State on November 27. With a win against Sacramento on December 2, 2006, the Spurs moved past the Celtics to become the second winningest franchise in NBA history (based on winning percentage) at .595. But as the season unfolded, the Spurs failed to live up to their lofty expectations. Following a 9–7 record in January, the Spurs started February with a 1–3 record. They struggled down the stretch in many of those defeats, and the Spurs quickly found themselves far behind the Dallas Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns. In fact, the Spurs were, during this period, a mere 1.5 games ahead of the third-place Houston Rockets in the Southwest Division. Trade rumors began swirling around the Spurs. Unaccustomed to struggling during the regular season, the Spurs were frustrated. With the trade deadline quickly approaching, Popovich had to choose whether or not to keep the team together. His decision was not to make a trade. Then, it was as if their whole season had magically turned around in one moment. With quiet determination, the Spurs spent the rest of the season flying under the radar, winning thirteen games in a row during February and March. The Spurs won those games with either tough defense or by hitting big shots down the stretch. The Spurs were an NBA-best 25–6 in the final 31 games. During the 31-game stretch, the Spurs averaged 98.8 points while holding their opponents to 87.9 ppg. With that streak, the Spurs began climbing back up in the Western Conference standings. Despite their massive turnaround, the Spurs would not catch the Mavs who won the Southwest Division by nine games. However, with the NBA's top ranked defense and a 58–24 record, the Spurs entered the postseason in good shape.
When the bell rang for the second season, they were able to put the Denver Nuggets away in five games. While the Spurs were bouncing the Nuggets, the Mavericks, who had an NBA best 67–15 record in the regular season, were unraveling, losing to the Golden State Warriors in six games. The Mavericks' upset loss set the Spurs second-round series against the Phoenix Suns as the key series in the entire NBA Playoffs, as this series featured the teams with the two best records remaining in the Western Conference. The Spurs went on to win 4–2 in the very contentious and controversial series versus the Suns. The series featured a Robert Horry foul on Steve Nash toward the end of the fourth game which resulted in Horry being suspended for two games. Those who said the second-round series against the Suns was the true NBA Finals would be proven right, as the Spurs easily dispatched the Utah Jazz in five games to reach the NBA Finals. In the 2007 NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs swept the Cleveland Cavaliers and captured their fourth title in nine years. Duncan proclaimed that that championship was "the best" of the four championships, and acknowledged he played "sub-par" and thus received only one vote for NBA Finals MVP from a panel of ten. The award was won by Tony Parker who dominated in the Finals averaging 24.5 ppg on 57% shooting. Tony Parker became the first European-born player to win the Finals MVP.
Just before the 2007 NBA Draft, the Spurs purchased the Austin Toros of the NBA Development League, becoming the second NBA team to purchase an NBADL team. This move made the Spurs the sole NBA affiliate of the Toros and gave them greater control over the management of the team, including coaching and the offensive and defensive schemes.
The 2007–2008 season saw the Spurs go 56–26 and finish 3rd in the Western Conference where 7 games separated all 8 playoff teams. The season was marked by major trades and acquisitions by many teams, most notably Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen being acquired by the Boston Celtics, Pau Gasol going to the Los Angeles Lakers, and Shaquille O'Neal going to the Phoenix Suns. Although the Spurs avoided any major deals, they still made a mid-season trade to acquire Kurt Thomas from Seattle. Despite a strong 17–3 start and an 11-game winning streak between February and March, the Spurs stayed relatively under the radar of the major trades and other quickly rising teams.
The Spurs faced Phoenix in the first round in a rematch of the previous year's controversial semifinal series. The Spurs rode the momentum of a thrilling Game 1 win (thanks in part to a rare, extra-clutch OT 3-pointer by Tim Duncan) to defeat the Suns in five games. The Spurs second round opponent would prove to be more than a handful as the veteran Spurs faced Chris Paul the up-and-coming New Orleans Hornets. The Spurs and the Hornets would battle for seven hard fought games (with New Orleans earning the upper hand throughout much of the series), but the Spurs scrapped together a game 7 win on the road (marking their first ever game 7 win on the road and series win after being down 0–2) to advance to the Western Conference Finals against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, where their run would come to an end after five games.
2008–09: A Down Season
The Spurs began the 2008–09 season with three consecutive losses, their worst start to a season since 1973. Manu Ginóbili played in only 44 games as he continued to struggle with a right ankle injury. As a result, the Spurs were forced to depend on Tony Parker and Tim Duncan to carry the load; Parker responded by posting career-high averages in points and assists per game. The Spurs finished with a 54–28 record and third place in the West, but were eliminated by the Dallas Mavericks in their first round series, four games to one. The loss represented the Spurs' first defeat in the first round of the playoffs since the 1999-2000 season.
Two days before the 2009 NBA Draft, Spurs general manager R.C. Buford acted to address the team's age and health concerns by acquiring 29-year-old swingman Richard Jefferson from the Milwaukee Bucks. The Spurs sent 38-year-old Bruce Bowen, 36-year-old Kurt Thomas, and 34-year-old Fabricio Oberto to the Bucks, who swapped Oberto to the Detroit Pistons for Amir Johnson. The Spurs held three second-round picks in the 2009 NBA Draft. Their selection of Pittsburgh Panthers forward DeJuan Blair with the #37 pick was described as a "steal" by analysts; the Spurs later drafted two guards they had been targeting with the #37 pick, taking Miami Hurricanes shooting guard Jack McClinton and point/shooting guard Nando De Colo from France with the #51 and #53 picks, respectively. On July 10, 2009, the Spurs signed Detroit Pistons power forward Antonio McDyess to a three-year deal worth approximately $15 million in guaranteed money.
|AT&T Center||2002-present||Formerly SBC Center|
#00 Johnny Moore
#13 James Silas
#32 Sean Elliott
#44 George Gervin
#50 David Robinson
The 2003 NBA Champs were honored with a Wheaties box.
The 2005 NBA Champs were also honored with a Wheaties box.
Tim Duncan on the Wheaties box, 2005