By: Jameson White
Even without the number of titles, should the San Antonio Spurs be mentioned with the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers as the NBA’s greatest franchises? Most don’t even have to watch the NBA to know that the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers are probably the two greatest franchises the NBA has to offer. With the Celtics being one of only two teams that have been around since the start of the NBA in 1946, and the Los Angeles Lakers (Formerly known as the Minneapolis Lakers) being formed in 1948, these are both teams that have had success in almost every decade since the NBA even first existed. With the Celtics and Lakers owning 16 and 15 titles, respectively, they have been dominant throughout their franchises histories. The Lakers having players like Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, among many others. However the Celtics are no slouch when it comes to their own legendary players. Guys like Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen to name a few, help to state that both teams have been stacked. However, there is another team I’d like to throw in there when you think of the great teams: The San Antonio Spurs.
Sure the Spurs “only” have five NBA finals victories as a franchise. And yes, they all came within a 15 year span. However, as a franchise they have missed the playoffs four times since the team merging from the ABA to the NBA in 1976. They’ve also made the playoffs 20 straight seasons, which also happens to mean the last time of not making the playoffs was while Tim Duncan was still dominating at Wake Forest University. Part of this can be credited to the Big Fundamental, who did have an enormous impact on this feat, but it mostly speaks to the Spurs as a franchise. From the “Iceman” George Gervin, to “The Admiral” David Robinson, to the Gregg Popovich era with his superstars in Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and now Kawhi Leonard, it seems the Spurs have always had a steady presence to lean on to win games.
The way they draft and develop talent, especially since Gregg Popovich’s naming of head coach along with R.C. Buford’s place in the front office, is nearly unheard of. They’ve found ways to win with draft picks from the number 1 overall selection all the way to the 57th, they continuously find hidden gems in the draft and know how to find players in foreign countries. This has paved the way to the Spurs owning an NBA record of having 18 straight 50-win seasons (it would be 20 if not for the 1998-1999 lockout shortened season in which they managed to win 37 in 50 games.) With this consistent winning, it has allowed the Spurs to also own the best winning percentage as a franchise in the NBA with 61.4% of their games ending with a W. All of this without even mentioning the individual awards won by the Spurs’ loyal players, from MVP’s, to Rookie of the Year awards, to Defensive Player of the Year’s, 6th Man of the Year, Coach of the Year, Executive of the Year, the All-NBA and All-Star game selections, this team is chock full of awards by their own homegrown players.
All of this to say, there is plenty of credit due to the Spurs way and the Spurs system. Forget the number of rings, although a huge accomplishment, there’s something to be said about consistency. If you’re asking about the greatest NBA teams, of course the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers should be at or near the very top of that list. But the Spurs have a very compelling argument to be right up there as well with their own assortment of legendary teams and cast of players either in the Hall of Fame or locks to be in enshrined in the coming years. They don’t have the number of rings, but they can win with the best of them on any given year. This consistent and sure play has led many to call them not only the “model franchise” in the NBA, but also to be known as one of the most well run franchises in all of American sports.