Gregg Popovich Knows Championships Are What Count
By Layton Garrett
San Antonio Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich has never seemed to care about accolades and pat on the backs from the media.
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When asked recently at the U.S. A. Olympic Training Camp if it bothered him that the Spurs were never dubbed a super team? Popovich responded, “Nah, I just count Championships”. That was classic Pop, and very much the Spurs way of responding. When Popovich took over for Bob Hill, the Spurs had a history of being a good regular season team, but would falter in the playoffs.
You could say the same about last year’s team that won 67 games, but the reality is LaMarcus Aldridge had his jersey grabbed and held under the basket in the waning seconds of Game 2 trailing by one point, and Tony Parker missed a free throw and two open jumpers in the final minutes of Game 5 that could have given the Spurs a win. A blown call and a blown opportunity from closing out the Oklahoma City Thunder in five! But I digress, that is for another article.
Popovich with a lot of help from Duncan and David Robinson finally helped the Spurs break through for their 1st Championship in 1999. The Spurs repeated that feat with Championships in 2003, 2005, and 2007, and a mentality of trying to win it all every year became an attainable reality. Even during that glorious dynastic run where Championships were a crazy play or two away in 2004 and 2006 which would have been five straight titles. Critics still were begrudging in their praise of the Spurs.
Phil Jackson said 1999 should have an asterisk next to it for being a shortened season. 50 games were played instead of 82 in the regular season after the strike came to an end that season. In 2003, Charles Barkley in classic form switched his pick from the Spurs to the New Jersey Nets for the Finals, and was wrong as he usually is in the end. In 2005, Tim Legler was one of the few, if not the only analyst from ESPN who picked the Spurs over the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons were the defending champs, but the Spurs had the best record and were only a year removed from being the champs themselves. In 2007, it was all about the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns. The Golden State Warriors upset the Mavericks and the Spurs won what was essentially the Championship series vs. the Suns in route to winning it officially against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals.
Only thing that matters to Pop: ????? pic.twitter.com/Zrrgvi5W0j
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 19, 2016
In 2008, the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Pau Gasol and the talk was Lakers and Boston Celtics for the next three years or so, with the Celtic new Big 3 consisting of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen. When LeBron James joined the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010 lots of talk about having a Big 3 to be successful was discussed. The Spurs were left out of many of those Big 3 lists at first by media pundits. James to his credit did mention the Spurs Big 3 of Tim Duncan, Parker, and Manu Ginobili which despite bringing home three titles was being quietly swept under the rug by members of the national media.
When the Spurs made their Championship run in 2013 beating the media darlings, the Warriors, and sweeping the Grizzlies (many people actually picked the Grizzlies in that series, I was incredulous knowing that they didn’t have the Spurs firepower offensively), and ultimately falling tragically short in seven games to the Heat, something peculiar happened. The Spurs actually got lots of credit for a change, even in defeat after that epic battle against the Heat. Since then the Spurs won another Championship in 2014, and a couple more heartbreaking defeats in the last two years playoffs since, the Spurs seem to me to finally have gotten the respect they deserve as a legendary team in the media.
So, when Popovich was asked about the Spurs not ever being dubbed a “super team”, he could care less. The scoreboard cannot be denied or debated. The Spurs have five Championship banners hanging in the rafters. Whether the Spurs were considered a Dynasty, or “super team” is irrelevant.