The San Antonio Spurs have finished above .500 in 15 consecutive seasons. Aside from some fortunate circumstances — pulling two Hall of Fame caliber players in Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker in the later portion of the draft — the Spurs have remained at the forefront of the league because of solid management.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has helped cultivate a winning philosophy and culture. The team has evolved, under his tutelage, from an imposing defensive unit in the early decade to a blistering efficient offensive team that finished first in offensive efficiency last season.
But, perhaps more importantly, the triumvirate of stars — Tim Duncan, Ginobili and Parker — have made personal sacrifices for the collective good. Sacrifices that most star caliber players are unwilling to make, exemplified perfectly by Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden.
By sacrificing millions, which they would have otherwise earned on another team, San Antonio was able to stay within the confines of league rules and build a championship contending roster. The sacrifice, Parker told David Aldridge of NBA.com, wasn’t too difficult.
“Everybody asks me that,” Parker said. “I was talking with a couple of my friends and they were asking that. I was like, I don’t know. I think it’s just the atmosphere here, the family atmosphere.
“For me personally, why I did it was because, deep down in my heart I know Pop will take care of me until the end of my career. So that’s why I felt like I can take less now and help the team out. And we were able to sign Danny [Green] and Boris [Diaw]. And I know when I get a little bit older, I know Pop will take care of me. I really feel that.”
This doesn’t mean that winning a title without sacrifice — Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and forward Serge Ibaka did leave money on the table to pursue a championship — is impossible. It merely means that it will be a lot more difficult to win games and continue to be profitable in the long-term.
“A lot of people ask me, ‘How are you so successful in San Antonio?’” Parker said. “Because, I say, we did a lot of sacrifice. When you look at Manu, Manu did a lot of sacrifice to stay here. I did the same thing. Sometimes when you want to win championships, you have to do that.”
Harden, meanwhile, is trying to buck that belief by winning a title with Houston and maximizing his career earnings. If the Spurs are any indication, that won’t be easy without sacrifice.