Goodnight, San Antonio

When you grow up bearing witness to something special it almost becomes common place knowledge to you. Think about the generation who grew up with Michael Jackson, those albums, while spectacular, were almost perceived as a given. How about all of us who’ve never known an internet-less world, sure we enjoy it, but how often do we ever stop to contemplate the novelty of being able to connect with anybody in the entire world at the click of a mouse.

The same is very much true when we look at the world of professional sports. The generations who grew up on the all-time great careers of the Jordans, Ruths, and Alis of the world, while appreciative, don’t quite have the same sense of wonder and amazement about what they witnessed as those of us who have been told the stories later on.

As a product of the mid-90s I’ve seen quite a bit of this…Yankee dominance at the turn of the Millenium, Kobe Bryant’s career, Serena Williams’ singles rise, pre-Thanksgiving 2009 Tiger Woods, etc.

Ultimately though, no historic run in my lifetime has gone as under the radar as that of the boys in San Antonio. Perhaps no group of athletes and their coach have ever, or will ever, manage to recreate the consistent success that the Spurs of the ’90s, ’00s, and ’10s did. Yet aside from all of the highlights you’ve seen in the wake of Tim Duncan’s 2016 retirement, or Manu Ginobili’s this very week, the outpouring of love and celebration has alluded one of basketball’s true dynasties.

I suppose it’s far-fetched to refer to 3 players and a coach as a dynasty in a sport that consists of a dozen athletes on rosters and half a dozen coaches on staff. But that’s exactly what Duncan, Manu, Tony Parker, and Greg Popovich have been in the NBA for the better part of the last 3 decades.

Manu Ginobili will be remembered in basketball history as the quintessential 6th man, and in my eyes indisputably the greatest to ever lead a second unit. His accolades, currently plastered on every sporting news site this week, read a little something like this:

  • 2-Time NBA All-Star
  • 2 All-NBA Selections
  • Sixth Man of the Year

Of course there’s Tony Parker, who departs his long-time home in San Antonio for a new chapter with the Charlotte Hornets. While not necessarily ready to call it a career, his departure from the Spurs is certainly reason to reflect on his incredible:

  • 6-Time NBA All-Star
  • 5 All-NBA Selections
  • NBA Finals MVP

The you’ve got the on-court centerpiece, the Big Fundamental, Tim Duncan. After a 19 year career with the Spurs that saw him etch his name as one of the greatest Power Forwards of all time, his trophy case is definitely loaded:

  • 2-Time NBA MVP
  • 15-Time NBA All-Star
  • 15 All-NBA Selections
  • NBA Rookie of the Year
  • 3-Time NBA Finals MVP

And then there’s the anchor of the Spurs core. Coach Pop, whose leadership led not only to tangible championship success, but also some of the most humble superstars in an era that prided itself on the loud and abrasive. To his credit:

  • Most Wins in NBA History with a single team
  • 20 Consecutive Playoff Appearances
  • 3-Time NBA Coach of the Year

Together this group of men has ushered in an unheralded era of dominance the likes of which few pro sports organizations have ever known. More impressively though, the Spurs managed to do it boasting a roster of home ground stars and a selection of role players passed over by other teams. They were the last of a truly dying breed in basketball, the self-made super team.

Rolling into the 2018-2019 campaign with Gregg Popovich as the sole reminder of what the franchise once was seems almost surreal. Once presumed to be headed for a well-deserved retirement coinciding with Duncan’s, Pop has stuck it out and managed to out live the careers of his greatest success stories. As long as he continues to draw up the Xs and Os on the bench in San Antonio, they will continue to be a contender, he’s proved that he can coach even the un-coachable to postseason glory. We saw glimpses of a new regime in the Kawhi-Aldridge pairing, and now again we see another chance at glory in the likes of the potentially potent Lonnie Walker IV. But truth be told the sun has set on the golden age of Spurs basketball. Goodnight, San Antonio…

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