The San Antonio Spurs are flying under the radar yet again. Despite accumulating five NBA Championships and winning at least fifty games in every regular season since 1999, the Spurs are overlooked by the mainstream media like clockwork each and every year. They’re too old, pundits say. They’re boring. Their window is closed. The Spurs have heard it all. Despite being counted out on numerous occasions, the Spurs are always a force to be reckoned with come playoff time. The Spurs making the Western Conference playoffs is approximately equivalent in certainty to death and taxes.
The two primary mainstays of the organization, Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan, have been integral ingredients to San Antonio’s success ever since securing their first championship in 1999. As long as the Spurs have one of the best coaches in the history of the NBA paired alongside the best player of his generation, they should never be taken lightly. Recently, this duo became the third pair of coach and player to amass 1,000 regular season victories. But regular season victories only mean so much to Popovich, Duncan, and the Spurs. They are chasing championships.
Popovich is perhaps the greatest NBA coach of all time. When this discussion takes place, there is only a short list of names that could be legitimately debated. Also on this list would be Red Auerbach, who coached the Celtics to nine NBA titles in the 1950s and 60s. Pat Riley would need a spot on this list as well, as he won four titles with the Lakers in the 1980s and then won another one with Miami in 2006. The name that most would probably insert in the discussion would be Phil Jackson. Jackson is rightfully acclaimed for having eleven rings and for being the godfather of the triangle offense. Despite the success of the aforementioned coaches as well as other Hall of Fame coaches such as Jerry Sloan and Don Nelson, Gregg Popovich has a definite claim to the title of greatest NBA coach of all time.
Popovich has remained in the same city for the duration of his career as a head coach. No other coach in the discussion can make such a statement, except for Duncan, who has had a different nucleus for each of his five championships, marking another characteristic to which no other coach on this list can stake a claim. Popovich won his first championship with David Robinson as his best player, who was playing alongside a budding star in Duncan. Popovich then won his second title after Robinson retired with Duncan as the go-to-guy. Two years later in 2005, a young French guard named Tony Parker played second fiddle to Duncan as Popovich won his third title. To win a fourth title, Popovich counted on contributions from Argentinian Manu Ginobili. Fifteen years after securing his first title, Popovich won ring number five. This occurred in 2014 with Kawhi Leonard taking home NBA Finals MVP, who has since become the team’s centerpiece.
Essentially, Popovich has won five championships with five completely reconstructed rosters over the span of twenty years as a head coach. Red Auerbach had Bob Cousy and Bill Russell for nearly a decade, in an era of arguably weak competition. Pat Riley had two of the top-five players of all-time in Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Phil Jackson had Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in Chicago and then Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles. To be clear, Gregg Popovich has not been deprived of talent. Many coaches would give away their first born child to coach Tim Duncan, but Popovich did not have the consistent plethora of Hall of Fame talent at his disposal that those other coaches did.
The greatest player of this current generation of NBA players is not flashy. He is not self-absorbed. He actually took a significant pay cut because he wants to win another championship. Duncan does not awe spectators with his athleticism, but rather impresses with his consistency. The twelve foot shot that ricochets off of the backboard and through the net is his specialty. He is a 15-time NBA All-Star with career averages of nineteen points to go along with eleven rebounds per game. He is a five-time NBA Champion in the midst of chasing ring number six. The braggadocios farewell tour that Bryant just recently completed indirectly reminds NBA fans that this could potentially be Duncan’s final season. He wouldn’t want all of the hoopla and individual attention that Bryant craved. Duncan is focused on leading his team to a championship. As Duncan and the Spurs continue on through the playoffs, fans must make sure to savor the moment, because this could be the final time we see the greatest player of his generation take the floor.
The San Antonio Spurs are determined to win a sixth championship. Even with all of the buzz surrounding the Warriors this season, the Spurs finished the regular season right on their heels with a record of 67-15. The Spurs’ acquisition of LaMarcus Aldridge this past off-season could be the difference maker when the Spurs and Warriors inevitably collide in the Western Conference Finals. Any team that features the best head coach of all-time and a once-in-a-generational type player should feel as though they have a chance to capture a title. The 2016 San Antonio Spurs are no different.