As the smoke of battle cleared, the San Antonio Spurs emerged victorious once more to win their 5th NBA title in the last 15 years, cementing their legacy as one of the greatest teams to ever play the game. It was a title they were not supposed to win, a title beyond their reach. But as they have done in the last several years, the Spurs prevailed against the toughest challenge in their history beating the two-time defending champions Miami Heat, the same team who handed them their first Finals loss last year.
The Spurs won the series 4-1 in a convincing and dominating fashion. They established an NBA Finals record by beating the Heat by a total of plus 70 points. Another record they set was making 53 percent of their shots in the Finals, underscoring their ball movement and unselfish play.
It was a victory of redemption. A triumph over adversity. A testament to a great organization, great coaching, and great players. Their victory is one of the most “feel-good” stories ever told. A story of how a group of “over-the-hill” players steamrolled a team built for multiple championships and boasted of the best player on the planet. A story of how teamwork trumps individual play. A story of how a humble group of guys who shun the spotlight demolished a team who enjoyed the glitz and glamor. An inspiring story. A story for the ages.
Since that last title in 2007, many have proclaimed that the Spurs championship window was closed. It was time to rebuild, a time to get younger, and get more athletic players. But in the years since, the Spurs front office continually reloaded the team with cast-offs and free agents to team up with their aging core of Tim Duncan (now 38), Manu Ginobili (36), and Tony Parker (32). They chose players not just for skills but also for their character and ability to play in a system. If you look at this current roster, only Duncan is a high lottery pick while most were plucked from the 2nd round and free agency. NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard was drafted 15th overall in 2011 by the Indiana Pacers.
That the Spurs have contended and endured all this time is due to their belief in their system and culture—a culture that connects all the 15 years and 5 NBA titles. In 1999, a young Duncan, David Robinson, and coach Gregg Popovich hoisted the franchise’s first title. Another team led by Duncan and Popovich reigns supreme in 2014. Between all those championships, the Spurs have won at least 50 games in the last 15 full regular seasons—another record of sorts.
As of this writing, it looks like Duncan and Co. will return for another season. The title and the pieces that they have mean the team can still compete. The Spurs’ No. 1 priority is to sign Leonard to a multi-year deal as the team prepares for a future without the “Big Three.” Duncan and Ginobili will eventually retire but they will probably take this one last ride for glory.
SIDELINES. With his 5th championship, Duncan can now be considered the best player of his generation. While he is tied with Kobe Bryant in number of championships, he has more regular season MVP and NBA Finals MVP’s under his belt. Moreover, he has never missed the playoffs in 17 seasons.