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San Antonio Spurs
NBA – SOUTHWEST
Arena: AT&T Center
Coach: Gregg Popovich
San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs Summary
The San Antonio Spurs have been one of the most successful NBA teams of the past three decades, winning five NBA titles and being a perennial playoff team. The franchise is currently going through a rebuilding phase after a successful run, but there is some talent for long-time head coach Gregg Popovich to build around.
After 22 consecutive playoff appearances, the Spurs enter the 2021-22 campaign having missed the postseason in each of the last two years. Popovich is the last link to the championship teams of the early 2000s, and he’s hoping to be the bridge to the next successful era of the franchise.
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San Antonio Spurs History
The Spurs franchise was originally formed as the Dallas Chaparrals, an ABA squad that joined the league for the 1967-68 season. The team had success on the court, making the playoffs in its first five seasons of existence, but the franchise moved to San Antonio for the 1973-74 season and became the Spurs.
San Antonio made the ABA playoffs in each of its first three seasons after the move and then was one of four teams to make the move to the NBA when the two leagues merged in 1976. The Spurs played their first four seasons in the NBA in the Eastern Conference, with George Gervin helping lead the team to the East finals in 1979, where they lost to the defending champion Washington Bullets.
San Antonio moved to the Western Conference for the 1980-81 season and won three straight division titles in their new home, the Midwest Division. The acquisition of center Artis Gilmore helped make the team a title contender, as the Spurs made the conference finals in consecutive seasons in 1982 and 1983, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers each time.
The team was aging and having trouble just getting to the playoffs, but the franchise had the luck of winning the 1987 NBA draft lottery and the prize of getting to draft Navy center David Robinson. The big man had to serve a two-year Naval commitment before being able to join the team, but when he did, he was NBA-ready, winning Rookie of the Year honors in 1989-90.
Robinson, Sean Elliott, Terry Cummings, Willie Anderson, and Rod Strickland formed the nucleus for the team that won two straight division titles and won its first playoff series in seven seasons. Robinson continued to be a perennial All-Star, but the Spurs could not break through the conference semifinals round.
The 1994-95 season saw Robinson have his best individual season, earning NBA MVP honors, and San Antonio reached the Western Conference finals before falling to the Houston Rockets. The playoff streak ended at seven seasons in 1996-97 when Robinson played just six games due to back and foot injuries, as Gregg Popovich moved from his general manager role to head coach during the season.
The bad season again begat the top overall pick in the draft, which brought Wake Forest power forward Tim Duncan to the team and allowed Popovich to form a Twin Towers of Robinson and Duncan. The positive impact was immediate, as Duncan won Rookie of the Year honors and the Spurs returned to the postseason.
The lockout-shortened 1998-99 season was a memorable one for the Spurs, who advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time and knocked off the New York Knicks for the franchise’s first NBA title. Duncan earned Finals MVP honors, and a dynasty began.
San Antonio continued to make the playoffs, with a trip to the conference finals against the Lakers being the highlight of the next three seasons. Duncan was named league MVP in 2001-02, but the Spurs again fell to Los Angeles in the postseason.
A second straight MVP season for Duncan in 2002-03 ended up being the team’s second championship season, as the Spurs defeated the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals, with Duncan again winning Finals MVP honors. Popovich was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year, and Robinson retired at the end of the championship run.
Guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili helped form a new Big Three with Duncan, and the Spurs continued to be a title contender. San Antonio advanced to the NBA Finals again in 2005, defeating the Detroit Pistons in seven games for the franchise’s third championship. Two years later, the Spurs made the Finals again, sweeping LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the championship series for the third title in five seasons, with Parker earning Finals MVP honors.
San Antonio was competitive over the next few seasons, making the conference finals twice in the following five seasons. Guard Kawhi Leonard was acquired on draft day 2011, and Popovich won Coach of the Year honors again in the 2011-12 season. The Spurs advanced to the NBA Finals in 2013 but lost a seven-game series to the Miami Heat, losing the final two games on the road.
The following year saw a determined Spurs team as they sought to make up for what they saw as a lost opportunity. As fate would have it, San Antonio would again face the Heat in the NBA Finals, but this time, it was the Spurs who came out on top, with Leonard leading the way and earning Finals MVP honors.
Duncan’s career was winding down, with Leonard taking the leadership of the team over the next two seasons, earning the Defensive Player of the Year award in back-to-back seasons. The Spurs advanced to the Western Conference finals in 2017, the first season after Duncan’s retirement, but Leonard’s injury in Game 1 led to a four-game sweep by the Golden State Warriors.
Leonard continued to deal with injuries the next season, playing just nine games, and Parker and Ginobili led the team to the playoffs only to lose to the Warriors once again. Leonard’s unhappiness with the team led to him being traded to the Toronto Raptors in the 2018 offseason, as was Parker, and Ginobili retired, ending an era in the franchise’s history. San Antonio made the postseason in 2018-19 but then missed the playoff party for the first time in 23 seasons in 2019-20.
Championships Won by the San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio has been one of the more successful of NBA franchises, ranking behind only the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls in NBA championships won. The five NBA titles all came within a 16-year span, though the team has never won back-to-back crowns.
The first championship for the Spurs came in the 1998-99 season, with San Antonio defeating the New York Knicks in the NBA Finals in five games. Four seasons later, the Spurs won their second championship, defeating the New Jersey Nets in six games in the 2003 NBA Finals.
San Antonio won its third NBA title just two years later, edging the Detroit Pistons in seven games for the crown. The team then earned its fourth title in 2007, sweeping the Cleveland Cavaliers in the championship round.
The most recent title came in 2014, as the Spurs made a second straight appearance in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat and defeated them in five games to make up for a loss in the previous year’s championship series. San Antonio has also won 12 division titles in its time in the NBA, with the most recent coming in the 2016-17 campaign.
Important Team Events
High draft picks helped shape the Spurs dynasty, and the most important came at No. 1 in the draft after the team won the NBA draft lottery. In 1987, San Antonio earned the first pick and selected David Robinson out of Navy, as he became the team’s first NBA MVP in 1994-95. The team’s luck struck again in 1997 when the Spurs earned the top pick and selected Tim Duncan of Wake Forest, who won the league MVP two times and helped the team to five NBA titles.
Another major event in the Spurs’ history was the decision to make Gregg Popovich the head coach midway through the 1996-97 season. Popovich had been the team’s general manager, but he flourished as head coach, winning five NBA titles and ranking among the all-time greats in league history.
Tim Duncan is considered one of the top power forwards in NBA history, so it stands to reason that he would be considered one of the top players to play for the San Antonio Spurs. Duncan spent his entire NBA career with the team, finishing as the team’s all-time leader in games, minutes, field goals, rebounds, blocks, and points. A two-time league MVP, Duncan was the main contributor to five NBA championship teams, winning Finals MVP three times.
Before Duncan, the Spurs were led by David Robinson, and he had a Hall of Fame career for the team, winning Rookie of the Year, NBA MVP, and Defensive Player of the Year during his 14 seasons with San Antonio. Robinson was a four-time All-NBA first-team selection, four-time All-Defensive first-team selection, and played for the original USA Dream Team in 1992.
Although he doesn’t have the team titles to show for it, George Gervin was the San Antonio Spurs in the 1970s and early 1980s. “The Iceman” holds the top scoring average among all players in Spurs history with 26.3 points per game. Gervin led the NBA in scoring in four out of five seasons from 1977-78 to 1981-82 and was a five-time All-NBA first-team selection.
It’s not even a conversation about top coaches in Spurs history – and NBA history – without Gregg Popovich being a prominent part of it. Popovich has been coaching the Spurs since 1996-97, leading the team to five NBA titles and 13 division titles over that span. Popovich coached the Spurs to 22 consecutive winning records, the most by one coach in NBA history, and has been named the NBA Coach of the Year three times. He continues to be considered one of the top coaches in the game, as he also serves as the head coach of the United States men’s basketball team.
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San Antonio Spurs FAQs
Tim Duncan scored 26,496 points in his 19 seasons with the Spurs, the most in franchise history.
The Spurs have had two players win the NBA MVP award: David Robinson in 1994-95 and Tim Duncan in 2001-02 and 2002-03.
The Spurs have won five NBA titles, taking the crown in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2014.
Gregg Popovich had won 1,310 regular-season games as the coach of the Spurs entering the 2021-22 season, the most in franchise history.
The Spurs have selected No. 1 in the NBA Draft twice, taking David Robinson in 1987 and Tim Duncan in 1997.