The Spurs and Lakers Rivalry Relived Through Texas Eyes

Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images) /

With the San Antonio Spurs traveling to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers on Wednesday night, it felt like a perfect time to look back on the Spurs-Lakers rivalry through the eyes of Texas residents.

This article was inspired by the most famous transplant of Los Angeles County that currently claims Bexar County as his home: Compton’s own DeMar DeRozan.

DeRozan, who has repeatedly stated that he viewed Kobe Bryant as his idol growing up, is now the shining star for the Spurs soon after fellow SoCal native Kawhi Leonard packed his bags and was sent to Ontario to play for the Toronto Raptors.

In his childhood, DeMar saw his own struggles through the prism of the Lakers and Spurs fighting intense battles throughout the years for supremacy in the Western Conference. At the same time, the natives of Texas saw the same wars being waged.

Whether we were on the side of the San Antonio Spurs or the Los Angeles Lakers, we all triangulated the trials and tribulations of our lives through the prism of professional basketball and took pride in the failures and successes of our claimed hoop squads like it was our own.

As a central East Texan turned North Texan turned Austinite, I took it upon myself to interview several Central Texans on their views of the rivalry between the Spurs and the Lakers to help inform our readers at Air Alamo on just how deep the chasm between Los Angeles and San Antonio ran in the heyday of the rivalry between the L.A. Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs.

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I respect the Spurs and I like them when they win cause I get to party, but the only time I don’t give them props is when they play the Lakers. I grew up a Magic Johnson fan. In my eyes, Magic is better than Jordan, I know Jordan’s the GOAT. But Magic was a facilitator, he could make plays. At that time, I didn’t really know the fundamentals of basketball. Then came along Kobe Bryant. – Joshua “J-Boi” Thompson (manager/podcaster)

When I was young, I missed out on being able to see Magic Johnson and the Lakers play in San Antonio because I wanted to go to a wrestling match instead. My pops was like “I missed Magic Johnson for this B.S.?” Funny in retrospect. – Brandon “Mad One” Morgan (emcee)

I grew up in Goliad which was in Southeast Texas. So it was mostly Spurs fans and Rockets fan where I come from, but my family were Laker fans so I was too. – Michael “Big Mic” Pereida (emcee)

Spurs-Lakers is definitely the biggest rivalry for me as a Spurs fan. The Lakers were our rivals and I hate them fools! That bitterness of hating the Lakers comes from around 1999. Them going back and forth, they played each other in the playoffs every year. The matchup between Phil and Pop was iconic. I remember the role players, Rick Fox, Derek Fisher and Robert Horry. Especially when Horry later on went on to the Spurs. Having him on those last championship runs was dope but also was weird at first.  – Juan “Zetroc” Cortez Jr (DJ/producer)

There’s gonna be people that debate when it actually became intense, but for me, it was when Shaquille O’Neal joined the Lakers after he left Orlando.  That is what set it off for me, because for one, Shaq went to High School here. He went to Cole High School and was the local kid that we were all super proud of.

I remember being a young kid and going to his games. He (Shaq) was the first true high school superstar that came from San Antonio. Technically, he wasn’t from San Antonio but he had lived here because his stepfather was stationed here. So when he went to the Lakers, that rivalry had started to brew already. The Spurs were actually competitive and almost made it to the finals against Olajuwon and the Rockets. So it was like “Well, we’ve already got Olajuwon killing us and now we’ve got Shaq in the West.” – Daniel “Question” Boskind (emcee/producer)

All those big playoff years, Robinson and Duncan trying to contain Shaq…  he was a headache, man! Shaq was in his extra prime in that time and not even the best two big men in the league could cover him. I saw people recently asking if Draymond could guard Shaq. Not even Duncan and Robinson could guard O’Neal, so what makes you think Draymond could guard Shaq? Hell no! – Zetroc

It was the glitz and glamor of Hollywood versus the blue collar San Antonio team that was built from the ground up. We drafted all our players and didn’t land the super free agents. So for me, that’s where the rivalry was born. Some people may argue that it was born earlier than that, but for me, I have a hatred and respect for the Lakers and that’s where it was born.  – Question

Spurs-Lakers down here? I ain’t even gonna lie, I don’t even know a rivalry like it. Maybe Texas-Oklahoma, Yankees-Red Sox. It’s crazy cause there were all them years where we got flak for not going back-to-back, not repeating and it was always those fools’ fault. It felt like we played them twenty times a year. Guaranteed seven or eight games every year for ten or fifteen years straight. – Mike “Worldwide” Parker (emcee/producer)

Man, I’ve grown up in Austin my whole life and I didn’t know it was a rivalry. My friend who’s a Laker fan though is right next to me. – Adam “GoDJ Knowledge” Lopez (DJ)

I remember growing up in the projects, we used to play 5-on=5 as kids and would have one side be the Lakers, the other side be the Spurs. – Donald “Bud” Williams (tower access operator)

I was from a small town where everyone was mainly Cowboys fans. I didn’t know how serious people in San Antonio were until I moved here and I was like “Wow, there are paintings and murals everywhere… these people are serious about the Spurs.” – Jesse “Ill Fudge” Salazar (producer/DJ)

I just remember being in the country and watching my Grandpa watch the Spurs. I hated how they played: so boring, nothing flashy, all technical…  that impression pretty much stayed with me all my life. I felt that since Austin didn’t have a major basketball team that I didn’t actually have to side with the neighboring teams like Houston, Dallas, or the Spurs.

Needless to say, the Lakers were always my team. I remember watching when Kobe and Shaq were on the Lakers going up against San Antonio. I always hated the Spurs but they were always good games, always a tough match. At that time in my house we would bet push-ups with my pops when they were playing each other… let’s just say I never had to do too many push ups! – Randell “Kydd” Jones (songwriter/producer) 

Spurs versus Lakers is always an epic battle to the end. When it was Timmy vs Kobe it was nonstop action and now that it’s DeMar versus Lebron I expect no less! Go Spurs go! – Meritt “DJ Automatic” Rieland (DJ/host)

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When the Lakers are coming, you know what time it is. It was always gonna be a game that you gotta take serious. Especially in 99-03 and that era, it was Kobe. That was always the guy you had to watch out for. If he was coming through and meant business, it was easy for him to rack up thirty or forty points. You couldn’t stop him.

Even with Robinson and Duncan, Kobe always seemed like he was unstoppable. He’d get blocked a couple times but he’d always come back.  Phil Jackson was always talking trash so we would be salty. I was a Kobe fan so I wanted him to do well but not against San Antonio. Like, let him get 50 or 60 on another team but not the Spurs. – Ill Fudge

Kobe was one of my favorite players of all time. But I had to pretend like I didn’t cut for him. I was actually born in LA, so the first team I ever liked was the Lakers cause I was going with the people around me and what they liked. Once I got a little older and started playing basketball, it was all about the Spurs. – Worldwide

We grew up in the best era of Duncan and Kobe. Even though they didn’t go one-on-one, that matchup of those teams in that era was Bird and Jordan-esque. We gotta witness those greats. Being able to see quite a few games since I worked for the Spurs for a while, the only games I ever stayed to watch were the Laker games. The ticket managers looked out for me cause I never asked for any other games other than the Lakers games, so they would take care of me and give me a good seat.

The most fun part was catching them in the playoffs. Lakers lost some, Spurs lost some, but it was always fun cause in my eyes, when those two teams met, that was my championship. If the Lakers beat the Spurs, but even if they didn’t win the NBA Championship, if they beat the Spurs, this great dynasty team, it was marvelous. And when the Spurs beat us, it was like “I ain’t lookin at nothing else. That was our championship game.” I remember watching those series, and now its crazy cause Lebron came to LA. It’s a resurgence of what LA is. It’s that mecca of where you wanna go.– J-Boi

Having been a Spurs fan in Los Angeles, it was always a bit of a rivalry but I never had too many problems. Just a few jokes here and there but I always stood proud in the city of Los Angeles. Silver and black flows through my blood stream. It is what it is so I can keep my mind off these yellow-back Lakers. You see the same thing from the Laker side when they come through San Antonio. They rep it to the death.  – Mad One

You had a lot of Lakers fans who were born in San Antonio but grew up Lakers fans before the Spurs were any good and their families passed that on to ’em. We won the championship in ’99 and of course Phil Jackson came out and said that championship had an asterisk next to it. That pissed off everybody in San Antonio and they were ready to beat up any Lakers fan locally.

Shaq always had this hatred towards Robinson, but he had kind of a love-hate thing with Tim Duncan. He gave him the nickname “Big Fundamental.” There’s been a weird paradigm between the two teams and I think it starts with Shaq, Phil with the asterisk statement, and the Robert Horry and the .4 thing, is what makes people here say “F the Lakers.” – Question

Even when the Spurs swept the Lakers to go to the championship and win, it was a lockout so it was only like half a season. I don’t think the Spurs won again until 2003 and then right after that was when it seemed like we were winning a lot. But by that time, Kobe and Shaq were pretty much over with.  – Kyle “King Kyle Lee” Lee (entertainer/entrepreneur)

It was never easy when we played the Lakers. Even when Kobe had his down years, we knew it was always such a series. And their fans, I don’t know if they go everywhere like that or if they just like San Antonio. It’d be whole planes full of these fools when they came down here.

My homegirl used to work at the airport, she said there would be planes from LA coming in and every person coming out would have a Lakers jersey on. They would come the week before and just invade the whole city. People would be driving down from LA for the games and would have California plates flying Lakers flags. So it obviously means something to them too, cause it’s not like San Antonio was this huge vacation destination. – Worldwide

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It was two teams that when they played each other, it always seemed like they held a little grudge against each other. But they made each other part of their own legacy in the end. I’ll always remember the intense rivalry.

My favorite moment was the 2003 series, I feel like that’s when we came of age and knew we could play on that same level. The Lakers always had tremendous talent, from Magic to Shaq and the Black Mamba. We had to find our way and develop into a machine. We always had talent but had to find that Voltron theory under Pop. It really made us special. Bruce Bowen made some clutch shots to help us win the series. No asterisk or nothing. Everybody came together but it was still close because that boy Kobe could still send you fishing any time. – Mad One

I don’t think I really started disliking the Lakers until they played on Christmas in the early 2000’s. When the Spurs weren’t winning the championship, the Lakers were. Also I never want to see 0.4 seconds on a clock ever again in my life! – Leon “Hella Yella” O’Neal (radio DJ)

I remember during the 0.4 seconds game, I was managing an Academy store at the time. The employees wanted to go home, but I was waiting until the game was done. We had been making bets on who was gonna win the game and eventually I let them come into the back to watch the game.

When Duncan made that crazy shot, everybody started yelling and going crazy, they all wanted to go home because they thought the game was over. I was like “Hey, let’s just stay and watch the end of the game.” When Fisher made that shot to end the game, everybody was sick. I won like $300 off that game haha! – Big Mic

I’m a Kings fan but I already know what my strongest memory of the rivalry was… the 0.4 game easily. I watched that in the crib and ran outside yelling “Spurs lose!” up and down the street with no shoes on running around screaming. It was fire. – JJ “Phranchyze” Shaw (emcee)

I remember the .4 seconds game with Derek Fisher. We were all at my cousin’s house, everybody was running around the crib already going crazy cause Duncan had hit the one before. We were going crazy, I didn’t even watch him shoot the shot. I was already outside talking trash. We had a neighbor who was a Lakers fan. I was already outside talking to him and he was like “Go look at your TV! Go look at your TV!” – Worldwide

After seeing Tim Duncan hit a fade-away jumper over Shaq, I thought the game was sealed. All of a sudden you have 0.4 seconds left and Derek Fisher hits some garbage fade-away. Game over. No replay. Everyone in Spurs Nation was shocked. – Karthik Manjeri (musician)

My favorite game was when Derek Fisher hit that 0.4 and then just run off the court. Watching the heart of the Spurs get ripped out of their chest was just magnificent for me. San Antonio … all the gas and air went out of the AT&T Center, it just got sucked out. It just went quiet and everybody was like ‘Wow, what the heck just happened.’ – J-Boi

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The first Lakers-Spurs game I went to in person, Kobe was injured unfortunately but Bynum had a record-breaking number of boards. There was this crazy brawl outside, maybe not a brawl but a fight between two grown men. One grown man pushed this old man and it got real serious over sports. It turned into talking smack over sports into people really getting punched over the Lakers game. That’s how deep this hate goes.

I’ve been to a few Lakers-Spurs games and that wasn’t even a high intensity game as far as playoff implications. It was just a regular  game early in the season and seeing a fight outside AT&T, I’ll never forget that. That rivalry runs super deep.  – Zetroc

One time we went to a Spurs Lakers game when they first opened up the AT&T Center. This was after Shaq left the Lakers but pre-Pau Gasol. We were favored and had won the championship the year before. We were supposed to kill em.

I’ve been to tons of Spurs Lakers game and there’s always a nice large chunk of Lakers fans, just a sea of yellow throughout the AT&T Center. They beat the Spurs, and this was during the Kwame Brown and Smush Parker era for the Lakers. They knocked us off and I remember this guy wearing a Kobe jersey walking through the halls of the AT&T Center chanting “Kobe, Kobe!” I just saw three dudes come out of nowhere and say “You say another word, we’re gonna beat you up.” Of course, he kept it going and as soon as he walks out the door, they beat the crap out of him. – Question

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Anybody who oppose the Spurs, it doesn’t matter what team it is. If they come out here being disrespectful, walking downtown disrespecting the Spurs, they might just get dealt with. I’ve seen people’s cars get flipped over, all kinds of stuff. I don’t know who did it but I saw it. – King Kyle Lee

I remember when the Lakers were supposed to be a super team in 2013. They had Dwight Howard, Kobe, Pau, Artest and Nash. Come playoff time they get bounced by the Spurs in four games and Dwight Howard gets ejected in his final game as a Laker while Aaron Baynes is putting work on him. – Karthik

Honestly, the Lakers haven’t been any good lately so there hasn’t been much of a rivalry recently. We swept em in ’99. Then after Shaq left in the mid 2000’s, they were kinda trash for a little bit. It’s 2018 now so I feel like the rivalry kinda died out a long time ago. There really ain’t been no competition since Kobe. – King Kyle Lee

I remember Kobe’s last game against the Spurs. It was special, like it was the end of an era for real. I grew up hating Kobe. I respected him, but I hated him. I remember watching him knowing it was his last game and I felt like it was one of the best rivalries as a fan. There’s nothing better than Spurs vs Lakers.

The Rockets and Mavs had some intense rivalries with us. Both of them are right up there with it but Spurs vs Lakers in that decade … the Pistons, Heat and Mavs grabbed some but it was either the Spurs or Lakers winning championships. You had great coaches like Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich. I remember getting emotional at Kobe’s last game, like “Damn, this is the last time I’ll get to see it. This dynasty is over.” Not just for the Lakers but for the Spurs, being toward the end of their careers, this may be the last time we have a real rivalry. – Question

Kobe’s last retirement game against the Spurs at AT&T Center will always have a special place in my heart. As big as a rivalry as the Spurs and Lakers have, the commemorative video they did for Kobe… having Tim Duncan, Popovich, Parker, Ginobili, all these great Spurs were speaking on Kobe. Kobe was just himself, going off. Lakers lost that game but it was a great game to watch. – J-Boi

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I think some people are put in each other’s lives to make each other great, and that’s part of what makes a true rivalry. I can’t take nothing away from Phil Jackson but Popovich just seemed like a selfless, team-oriented person. We trust in Pop so if we gotta rebuild, I’ll be interested to see what that looks like. – Mad One