Throughout the history of sports, there have been a select number of franchises that have sustained success over a long enough period of time to be considered a dynasty. And Sunday night in San Antonio, we witnessed a truly unique dynasty add another championship to its historic legacy when it dethroned the two-time defending champion Miami Heat.
There will always be some who argue adamantly that the Spurs shouldn’t be considered a dynasty because they never won back-to-back NBA titles during their run of success, but those people are just plain wrong. True, San Antonio never utterly dominated the league like Michael Jordan’s Bulls or Shaq and Kobe’s Lakers, but the consistency and continuity of this franchise is to a degree that has rarely been seen before and will likely be never seen again.
With the win over the Heat, the legendary player-coach duo of Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich won its fifth NBA title 15 years after winning the first one in 1999. That time span between the first and most recent championship is the longest by any player-coach combination in league history.
It was also the fourth title for the extraordinary Spurs trio of Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, who have now registered 117 postseason wins together, the highest total by any trio of players in NBA history. As for Duncan, he joined perennial bench player John Salley as the only players in the history of the league to win a championship in three different decades.
The Spurs have been able to sustain this unprecedented level of success thanks largely to the fact that everyone in the organization is on the same page. The players, Popovich, general manager R.C. Buford and owner Peter Holt all know what they want to do and how exactly they are going to go about doing it.
On the court, it’s their tremendously unselfish style of play that sets the Spurs apart from every other team in the NBA. Thanks to ball movement that would leave the Harlem Globetrotters with their jaws dropped, anyone on the roster from Patty Mills to Danny Green can be San Antonio’s leading scorer on any given night. There is an unparalleled amount of trust between the Spurs’ players, and every player is willing to pass of a good shot for a great one.
In an era of big egos and star-oriented, AAU-influenced offenses, this style of play is a breath of fresh air for basketball purists and fans of players who are willing to sacrifice individual glory for the betterment of the team as a whole.
But perhaps the most impressive part of the Spurs’ championship run is the circumstances that surrounded it. San Antonio suffered one of the most heartbreaking defeats in recent memory in last year’s NBA Finals, allowing a late Game 6 lead slip away in the waning moments of the contest, punctuated by Ray Allen’s game-tying three with just seconds remaining in regulation.
The Heat would of course go on to also take Game 7 to capture their second consecutive NBA title, leaving the Spurs crushed. There were rumors that Ginobili might retire and that the roster would get blown up, thus bringing a historic era to an end in San Antonio.
But instead of taking that route, the Spurs opted to bring all their core players back to try to make another run, and it paid off in a huge way. This season Popovich and his team were more focused and driven than ever before. The Spurs used the agonizing defeat at the hands of Miami as their inspiration to get back to the finals so they could exact a measure of revenge.
Not only did they get back to the NBA Finals and defeat the Heat, they completely annihilated Miami.
Each of San Antonio’s four wins in the 2014 NBA Finals came by at least 15 points, and the Spurs also set an NBA Finals record by outscoring Miami by an average of 14 points per game in the series, breaking the record held by the 1964-65 Boston Celtics. The series was an emphatic exclamation point to one of the most dominating playoff runs in recent history.
Whether or not Duncan and Popovich (mostly Duncan) decide to resist the temptation to ride off into the sunset on top of the NBA and return next season remains to be seen, but they will certainly be favorite to repeat if they do.
Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili are all still extremely effective players, and have a rock solid supporting cast behind them. The 2014-15 season could also be a breakout year for NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who had something of a coming out party against the Heat. Leonard is a Popovich player if there’s ever been one, and he looks like he has all the tools necessary to replace Duncan as the face of the Spurs franchise when The Big Fundamental decides to retire.
In any event, NBA fans everywhere should be appreciating this franchise every chance they can get. We have had the pleasure of witnessing one of the most exceptional and unique entries into the annals of sports dynasties, the likes of which we will never see again.