The San Antonio Spurs is one of the greatest franchises in NBA history. They did not gain their incredible reputation overnight. It took years of hard work and discipline. The San Antonio Spurs have established an incredible identity for themselves. They are well-known, both as individuals and as a team.
The San Antonio Spurs have the 4th most NBA Championships. They are right behind the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, and Boston Celtics. The Spurs are currently rank first among highest winning percentage. They have made it to the playoffs 24 out of the past 25 seasons.
Given all their incredible successes, it’d be hard to sum the Spurs’ history up briefly. Instead, let’s go through a timeline of the San Antonio Spurs’ ups and downs.
During the time of the American Basketball Association, the Spurs started off in Dallas as the Dallas Chaparrals. The team did not do so well. Without the support of the local fan base, they had to change the team name to Texas Chaparrals. They did make the playoffs every season, except towards the end, and at that time most owners then wanted out. With less than impressive track record, they had to change something if they wanted to continue forward as a team. At that time, 36 businessmen in San Antonio worked out an agreement to bring the team to San Antonio. Again, the team changed names, calling themselves the San Antonio Gunslingers. That didn’t last long, however. They quickly changed to the San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs had a great crowd attendance. Almost 6,000 people showed up to every game. When the ABA and NBA merger started, the NBA seriously considered San Antonio. It was a great city with huge potential for growth. The San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, and New York Nets moved to the NBA in 1976.
The Spurs had a winning record their first season. They were 4th in the Eastern Conference. The Houston Rockets and Spurs instantly became rivals, competing to see who would control Texas.
George Gervin played a heavy role in the growth of the team. During the 1977-1978 season, he fought David Thompson for the scoring title. David Thompson had the best game of his career with 73 points. On the day of the title, George Gervin needed 58 points to win the record. Not only did he get 58 points but he finished with 63 and a win, claiming the central division!
The closest the Spurs got to the finals was the 1979 season. Sadly, they blew a 3-1 lead in the conference finals and had to wait 20 years before going to the finals after that disappointment. The San Antonio Spurs later became a fixed part of the playoffs. They constantly fought against the Lakers, Rockets, and Celtics. Legends such as Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, however, would stop them from ever winning a championship. The end of this era was marked when the Chicago Bulls traded for Gervin.
This was the hardest years for the team. For a combination of 4 seasons they recorded 115 wins and 213 losses. The constant losing caused rumors about a possible moving of cities. The team was transitioning to a new era. They drafted David Robinson but due to his commitment with the Navy he wouldn’t play for 2 seasons and the transition of Larry Brown to be the coach after winning the NCAA National Championships.
The San Antonio Spurs made huge turn around in the 1990 season, where they finished 1st in their division. Robinson had the most successful rookie year by a center with averaging 24 points a game and 12 rebounds. This led to a unanimous vote for him becoming Rookie of the Year.
The San Antonio Spurs became a huge part of the playoffs from then on! Jerry Tarkanian was then brought on board. However, it was a major flop. His time with UNLV did not help the San Antonio Spurs. Rex Hughes stepped in after Jerry started off 9-11 and John Lucas took over from there on. He had a successful first season and the Spurs went to the Western Semi-finals.
In 1993, investors purchased the Spurs from Red McCombs for 75 million dollars. The Alamodome was then built. Bob Hill was the new coach and Dennis Rodman joined the team. They went on to have the best NBA Record at 62-20 for the first time in franchise history. Robinson also won league MVP but lost in the conference finals to the Houston Rockets.
The next couple of seasons went well but the 96-97 season was the one that hurt the most. Robinson missed a month for an injury, followed by sidelining injury for the season about 2 weeks after. Elliot missed more than half the season for an injury as well. The Spurs ended with their worst record. Gregg Popovich ended up becoming the new head coach and landing the top pick in the 1997 draft. This draft pick ended being Tim Duncan.
Tim Duncan quickly became a driving force in the NBA with 21 points and 12 rebounds a game. He helped beat the team record of best improvement of a season but lost in the semifinals. The next season was only 50 games. It was also the only season since Duncan’s stint that he had not won 50 games in a season.
The Spurs won the NBA finals against New York Knicks that season. Also, Duncan had won the Finals MVP. It was the Spurs first NBA Championship. The next season started off with a lot of hype but, sadly, due to Tim Duncan’s knee injury, they were eliminated early in the playoffs. The next two seasons were almost identical. They ended both at 58-24 but getting out of the playoffs, which ended up being the Los Angeles Laker’s time.
The 2002-2003 season was a tough one. David Robinson announced it would be his last season and they also moved into the new stadium. The Spurs moved Tony Parker to starting point guard. They also added Stephan Jackson, Steve Kerr, Manu Ginobli, and others to their arsenal. The Spurs faced the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals, annihilating Jason Kidd and the Nets 4-2. Tim Duncan was given the Finals MVP and NBA MVP award.
After David Robinson, Steve Kerr, Stephan Jackson, and Danny Ferry all retired or left, there were many holes in the Spurs roster. The Spurs ended up getting nine new players and, with them, a much needed boost in team chemistry. They had a slow start but ended up with a 13-game winning streak. During the playoffs, they lost, causing a major disappointment.
During the 04-05 season, the San Antonio Spurs officially assembled the New Big 3! Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili were a legendary big 3, causing a ruckus on the court. The Spurs then won another NBA Finals. This time was against the defending champions, the Detroit Pistons. Duncan won another finals MVP.
The next few seasons were a struggle. They were eliminated early in the playoffs. However, during the 06-07 season, the Spurs once again fought for the NBA Championship against the Cavs and won! This was also Tony Parker’s first Finals MVP and the first European born player.
After another few years of struggling, the Spurs got a surge of talent in 2011 when Danny Green and Tiago Splitter and Gary Neal all jumped on board. Additionally, they sent George Hill away to bring onboard Cory Joseph and Kawhi Leonard.
The Spurs entered the NBA finals again in 2013. This time, they were against the Miami Heat, who were the defending champions. Sadly, they lost the 2013 championships after blowing their lead. The next season, however, the Spurs came back even stronger. They destroyed the Head. Kawhi Leonard shut down the King, Lebron James. Kawhi was also given the Finals MVP award for their win. The next two seasons were real losses in the NBA Playoffs. New additions to the team such as LaMarcus Aldridge and David West jumped on board to prepare for the future as, on July 11, 2016, Tim Duncan retired after 19 seasons.