RICHMOND- It feels as if basketball was ripped out of the hearts of the folks of San Antonio.
The only thing that is brought up in any form of entertainment is TNT’s Charles Barkley referring to those “Big Ol Women eating them churros”. A gag that while entertaining to Shaq is embarrassing to basketball fans.
The San Antonio Spurs are now headed in a backwards direction as a franchise, a direction that has not been associated with them since head coach Gregg Popovich took over the team back in 1996.
The Spurs are now 22-31 after their 127-120 loss to the Denver Nuggets. The general fans who loved the Spurs run of excellence can only recall the rough 96 season where the team finished 20-62.
Thankfully, the team was able to look into Wake Forest University and draft a highly touted center in Tim Duncan. The former Demon Deacon would team up with Spurs legend David Robinson in an attempt to rejuvenate the small market team.
The Spurs hit a major turnaround in 97 winning 56 games before falling to the eventual conference champion Jazz.
From 59 in 95 to 20 in 96 and 56 in 97, the Spurs seemed to be on a roller-coaster ride. Then came 1998, the year I was born. That started a trend of excellence that we don’t see in today’s team.
That year was a lockout shortened season so the Spurs only had 37 wins but still gained the top seed in the Western Conference. The team would go on to win their first NBA title in franchise history defeating the New York Knicks 4-1. The Knicks have been disgraceful since then.
In 2001, the Spurs would add Tony Parker and Manu Ginóbili would arrive in 2002 to help Duncan continue the trend of excellence and form their own
“Big 3” following Robinson’s retirement in 2003.
In 2003 en route to their second title by beating the Nets , the Spurs won 60 games. They would add a third title in 2005 over the Pistons, and a fourth in 2007 over the Cavaliers.
No one seemed to have any animosity towards the Spurs as they built from the draft consistently rather than stack the super team model that is being created in today’s game.
The Spurs would return to the finals in 2013, only to have Ray Allen make a three point shot to save the Miami Heat and their star Lebron James from losing in the final seconds and go on to win their second straight title.
San Antonio responded with a vengeance the following season, thanks to Kawhi Leonard’s enhanced play that brought home a 5th title. The Spurs defeated the Heat and James 4-1.
Duncan, Manu, and Parker are all retired and those voids have yet to be filled. Leonard was supposed to continue the trend of excellence and even brought San Antonio to the Western Conference Finals back in 2017.
Unfortunately, Zaza Pachulia of the Golden State Warriors made a dirty play that ended the Spurs hopes as they were swept aside, while the Warriors went on to win the title.
Since that great run, Leonard is gone to the Clippers after being traded to Toronto in 2019, where he helped the Raptors capture a championship.
Fast forward to 2020 and there seems to be no plan of succession in sight and as a result, the once proud dynasty has now fallen.
Unlike other dynasties that are often vilified and hated, the Spurs have garnered sympathy and love as they should have because they did it the right way.
If Pop does decide to leave, he would be given a standing ovation and deserves it. The run of the Spurs may be over and sadness is now creeping in with a very rough season.
Can they turn it around and bring back glory? It could happen…………….but it will take a VERY long time.