Jun15, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs celebrate with the Larry O’Brien trophy after defeating the Miami Heat in game five of the 2014 NBA Finals at AT&T Center. The Spurs defeated the Heat 104-87 to win the NBA Finals. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs have had five NBA Championship teams, all of which are since 1999. Who stands tall as the best of the bunch?
The San Antonio Spurs have had a historic run since 1999. Under Gregg Popovich, five NBA Championships have been captured, with the most recent one being in 2014. Opportunities were presented in 2015 and 2016, but to no avail.
Those five teams had players like Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili running the floor. Bruce Bowen was another significant piece of the puzzle, becoming a well-known defensive face of the Spurs in the 2000’s. This gave the team an identity for most of its title wins.
With the 2017 NBA Finals approaching, let’s look back on these five title teams of the Spurs. Which one is the best?
The second NBA Championship of the 2000’s for the Spurs saw their latest defensive stalwart of a team put on the court, arguably one of the best in NBA history. They had Tim Duncan in the post, along with Bruce Bowen, Manu Ginobili and Robert Horry handling the wing spots. Despite winning it all, as Bleacher Report notes, their DRting+ rating of 105.1 in the playoffs was off by seven, actually marking a defensive decline.
Duncan, in his prime at age 28, led the way in the finals, with 20.6 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in a hefty 41 minutes per game. This was highlighted by four games of 15-plus rebounds, all of which were double-doubles; he had the latter in every game of the series. He finished with over 23 points and 12 rebounds per game for the playoffs.
Behind Duncan was Ginobili, who stepped up with his highest points average of his playoff career, putting up 20.8 per game. He stepped up as a second distributor, too, sharing with Tony Parker throughout the 2005 postseason. Parker’s scoring role increased, giving the Spurs a slightly more powerful offensive look and picking up on the limited game of most of the bench.
2005 wasn’t the best Spur title team, but they highlighted what this squad had been known for throughout the 2000’s.
The 2003 San Antonio Spurs may have been the best defensive team among the five title-winners. They allowed 97.7 points per game in the playoffs, focusing more on the defensive end than just about of Gregg Popovich’s teams. The depth was there, with Bowen as the main stopper, helping them get through the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant Lakers and a rising Dallas Mavericks squad.
This Spurs team had depth beyond Bowen. A 37-year-old David Robinson played a starting role next to Duncan (he had one of his best playoff averages ever) and put up some of his lowest statistical marks ever across the board. However, he played a complementary role as a rim protector. Ginobili was only in his rookie year and still developing, but played a supporting scoring role off the bench as a three-point threat.
Stephen Jackson played two of his first three years in the NBA with the Spurs, playing the third fiddle in the scoring department in the regular season. He added 12 points per game in the playoffs and was one of the few legitimate scoring threats San Antonio had.
The defensive prowess of this team and how it dismantled the underwhelming New Jersey Nets won’t make them be remembered well. However, it was only the beginning of what became a dynasty in the 2000’s.
The previous three NBA Championships in Spurs history had been about Tim Duncan or David Robinson. However, 2007 became the year of Tony Parker.
In the NBA Finals, Parker showed up with a star-making performance of 24.5 points per game to win the MVP of the series. He dominated a Cleveland Cavaliers team that was weak at the guard positions, working around LeBron James. There wasn’t much of an effort in stopping the Frenchman, who had his way throughout the 2007 Finals.
Beyond the Finals, the Spurs had been one of the NBA’s best teams in 2007. They won 58 games and had Duncan powering through opposing teams in his prime, along with a supporting cast that looked similar to 2005. An exception was Michael Finley, who joined the team as a spot-up three-point shooter to spread the floor. He and Brent Barry played this role while jumping in and out of the starting lineup.
Overall, this team dominated the Cavs and showed no sign of being slowed down. It’s one of the most lopsided Finals over the past decade, which easily gave the Spurs a fourth championship under Popovich.
After a seven-year gap, the San Antonio Spurs returned in 2014 to win the NBA Finals. It had been a redemption series, as they were beaten down by a Ray Allen three in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals and lost Game 7. So when the Spurs met the Miami Heat in Part Two, it became a different story.
The 2014 Spurs weren’t the team everyone grew up knowing from 1999-2007 — they were all about the offensive side of the ball, even with being one of the best defensive teams in the league. They had six players average 10 points per game and a 37-year-old Duncan, who fell just 0.3 rebounds shy of averaging a double-double, headline this team. The usual suspects were there, too, with Ginobili and Parker, and Boris Diaw and Danny Green stepping up.
However, this became the coming-out-party for Kawhi Leonard. He not only made a mark on the defensive end, but shot an astounding 61 percent from the field for 17.8 points per game. This got Leonard MVP honors and put him on the map as a future star of the NBA, which became true the next season.
This, perhaps, was the most well-rounded title team in San Antonio’s history. It would be guaranteed if not for the 1999 team.
The 1999 NBA Finals will always have an asterisk, however large it may be, due to the lockout that shorted the 1998-99 season. Issues aside, this was the best Spurs championship team of the five they put on the court.
By 1999, David Robinson was entering the decline of his prolific NBA career. He dominated the 90’s, but never could get past Western Conference powers like the Utah Jazz or Houston Rockets.
An opportunity presented itself, though, when the Admiral teamed with a young big man named Tim Duncan to patrol the paint, creating one of the best frontcourt duos in NBA history. These two combined for 37.5 points, 21.4 rebounds and 4.9 blocks per game in the regular season. These numbers actually jumped in the NBA Finals and made these two impossible for the New York Knicks to deal with.
Beyond these two, the Spurs dealt with some depth problems, having Avery Johnson, Sean Elliott, and Mario Ellie as the next three up, but with a drop off afterward. It led to just one 90-point performance in the Finals, while the defense let the Knicks top 80 points just twice (they were held to 67 points in Game 2).
Which San Antonio Spurs title team is the best of the five? When will a sixth one join the mix?