The San Antonio Spurs have a relationship with their city like no other in the NBA. With quiet home-grown superstars and a selfless playing style, the Spurs have been a pillar of excellence for over two decades.
San Antonio is a wonderful city; it separated itself from the rest of major cities in Texas and often receives criticism for it. It is not as big and diverse as Houston, it is not as fancy and modern as Dallas, it is not as unique as Austin – we are seen homey and “boring”, and we like it that way. The city of San Antonio is a little big town, it is big enough that you won’t see the same person twice, but small enough that the chances of running into a friend at any given point are high.
The people in San Antonio are loving, warm, prideful and very protective of their city. Pride is something every Texan has, but it seems like the pride is double when the Texan is from San Antonio. Here in the “210,” we have many traditions that have been celebrated for over 100 years and every year, new traditions get added to the list.
From classics historical celebrations like the battle of the Alamo and the battle of San Jacinto, to the more party-centric NIOSA and the famous Rodeo, S.A. is a place of history, culture, pride and tradition.
The “Military City USA” has famous historical land marks like the Alamo and the River Walk, and we are very proud of that, but the pride in the Spurs is something that cannot be matched. Yes, we are very proud of our melting pot of cultures and heritages, but the one we all share is being part of the Spurs family. The team is a part of the community, it doesn’t coexist with the city, but they are the city, and that’s how we like it.
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— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) May 24, 2019
Everywhere you look, you will see the Spurs logo and colors mixed in perfectly with the city and vice versa – the Spurs gear is almost like a uniform to the inhabitants of San Antonio and “Go Spurs Go” is the city’s battle cry. Countless murals with the faces of past and present Spurs make you feel as if you were in Greece looking at murals and statues of the immortalized Greek Gods.
My family and I migrated to San Antonio when I was only 8 years old. The first weeks were rough for me since I did not know the language or the culture. I saw all kinds of people that I had never seen before and I saw a way of living that I was not used to.
Every kid in my classroom looked different, but they all had the same names written on the back of their Spurs shirts. I had a hard a time talking to them, but they understood me when I spoke about Tim Duncan. The Spurs help me fit it, the Spurs made me feel welcomed, the Spurs allowed me to find home what was once a foreign territory.
My favorite memory as a Spurs fan was not watching the team win a championship, but what happened right after they lost to Miami back in 2013. I was heart-broken just like every other Spurs fan. We lost, no one was going to go honking downtown to celebrate. All of that hard work came to an end in such a disappointing result.
I sat in my room and with tears cascading from my face, watching the local post game coverage. Instead of showing the party that would’ve been downtown, the news coverage showed a mass of fans parked at the airport gates waiting for their beloved Spurs to come back home from Miami. With signs and big smiles, fans cheered and clapped as the Spurs unloaded the plane. With the level of pride and love being shouted at them late at night, this became a family affair.
In San Antonio we don’t call the Spurs by their full name the way the media does – we call them Timmy, Tony, Manu, Patty, Pop, L.A., etc. You don’t go to your family and call them their full name; you call them by their first name or a nickname. The Spurs are our extended family, and they will always be invited to the “carne asada”.
Next: Lasting Memories in the Alamo City
Lasting Memories in the Alamo City
The number of memories the Spurs have created are endless, but there are some unanimously favorited by the fanbase.
Memorial Day Miracle: Former Spur Sean Elliot has always been a fan favorite. He helped shape what we now call “the Spurs way” and will forever be loved in S.A. It was May 31st, 1999 and the Spurs were going head-to-head against the Portland Trail Blazers in a game two for the Western Conference Finals. San Antonio was storming back from an 18-point deficit and Elliot was playing through a kidney injury, which later required a transplant. With 12 seconds left and down 2 points, Elliot shot a game winning three which help advance the Spurs to their first championship.
Tony Parker’s knee shot: In the 2013 NBA Finals, the Spurs were battling the LeBron James-fueled Miami Heat, who were trying to become back-to-back champions. With 10 seconds left and only up 2 points, Tony Parker desperately dribbled across the court trying to secure the game. With the shot clock expiring, Parker tripped and from his left knee, quickly bounced up and shot a clutch bank shot that will forever be remembered in San Antonio.
Tim Duncan’s OT clutch three: In Game 1 of the first-round during the 05′ playoffs, the Spurs were down 3 to the Phoenix Suns. With time expiring, the game tying three was shot by the most unexpected player. Tim Duncan was known as an elite scorer in the paint, but one of his biggest shots came when he drilled that game tying three-point shot, surging the Spurs to another championship.
Manu Ginobili steals Harden’s soul: With the 2017 second-round series tied 2-2 against the Rockets, Manu Ginobili scored ties the game with a clutch euro-step. The Spurs go up by two quickly after that. Then, with 5 seconds left in the game, guarded shooting expert James Harden. Manu let Harden think that he beat him for an open game-winning jumper. As soon as Harder elevated for the shot, Ginobili timed a perfectly block from behind him, securing a Spurs victory. The amount of Spurs moments is way too many to write all down, and the number of beloved Spurs players in history are way too many to name them all. Whoever it is wearing the silver and black and whatever their moment looks like, they will be forever remember in San Antonio.
Next: Beginning of the legacy- the Iceman and Admiral eras
Beginning of the legacy- the Iceman and Admiral eras
The Spurs have always been an excellent and beloved team. This franchise’s tenure in the NBA started with Hall of Famer George ‘The Iceman’ Gervin in 1976. Gervin was our first superstar – not too bad to start things off.
From 1976 to 1985, Gervin was a nine-time NBA-All Star and winner of four NBA scoring titles. He was one of the first true superstars and was a proud to be a Spur. Although he never won a championship with the franchise, the Iceman will forever go down as the OG Spur. He’ll forever be a legend in the city and his impact both on and off the court has inspired many people till this day.
Gervin was traded to the Chicago Bulls for the 1986 season and the next three years were a struggle for the organization. Then, the Spurs drafted a center from the Naval Academy named David ‘The Admiral’ Robinson with the first pick in the 87′ NBA Draft.
Even though Robinson was drafted in 1987, he did not play until 89′ because he was finishing his commitment to the US Navy. Robinson quickly turned the franchise back around by improving the Spurs previous season record by 35 wins.
He then went on to win anonymous Rookie of the Year, returning the Spurs to relevance. The Admiral was a different breed – he was aggressive, strong, agile and smart on the court; but what set him apart from the rest was his discipline and his willingness to be coached.
Robinson set the example of what would quickly become “the Spurs way”. The future Hall of Fame center was indisputably one of the league’s biggest stars, but a scary back injury during the 1996 preseason left him sidelined for the start of the regular season. Robinson recovered and returned in December, just to break his foot six games in.
Thanks to Robinson’s injury, the Spurs finished with an embarrassing record of 20-62, which later turned into the biggest blessing in Spurs history. That awful season translated into the Spurs winning the Draft Lottery and we all know what would happen next.
Next: Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich build championship pedigree
Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich build championship pedigree
With the first pick in the 1997 NBA draft, the San Antonio Spurs selected Tim Duncan, a power forward from Wake Forrest University. The Spurs had just selected the future heartbeat of San Antonio; the undisputed captain and the man who would go on to become the most beloved Spur in the history of the team.
Tim Duncan was the perfect Spur: he’s quiet and disciplined, he is selfless and simple, the superstar that can only be nurtured in San Antonio. From his horrible fashion to his hunger to win, he is the people’s champ and will always hold the top spot in all of our hearts.
Gregg Popovich, the third winningest coach in NBA history, started out his coaching campaign when he appointed himself head coach of the San Antonio Spurs. From that moment on, the team would develop a culture and a system that would change the league for the next 20 years.
Countless head coaches have come from Pop’s coaching tree, trying to replicate what Pop built in San Antonio with ideas like time management and paying more attention to the sleeper European prospects – Pop is responsible for molding the basketball that we all watch today. He’s the real mayor of San Antonio with the love and respect of the whole city for his impact on San Antonio that is felt daily.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) May 2, 2019
The Admiral had found his perfect counterpart in Duncan. Together they formed “The Twin Towers” and dominated the league for years. Under Popovich, things quickly turned around in the 1997-98 season. The team recovered to win 56 games, advanced to the Western Conference Finals and young Tim Duncan won Rookie of the Year. The Spurs were unknowingly becoming the legendary franchise we all love and respect now.
It was already a good team, but the addition of coach Pop and Timmy elevated them to greatness. The first Championship came quickly the very next year as the Spurs dominated the Knicks in a 4-1 series. The Big Fundamental won Finals MVP and was on his way to become the most dominant power forward of his generation. After years of losing early in the Playoffs, the Spurs had finally redeemed themselves and won it all. Little did we know that the next 20 years were going to be filled with record-breaking seasons and five championships.
Next: Enter the Big Three
Enter the Big Three and beyond
A series of books could be written about The Big 3 and their contribution to San Antonio in addition to the entire game of basketball. San Antonio has always had a harder time attracting and signing big name free agents since it is a small market team and truth be told, we are a “boring team”.
The Spurs do not waste their time shopping for flashy players they know they can’t have, instead they home grow their own superstars. Tim Duncan and David Robinson were top of the list when they entered the draft, but Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were hidden gems that the Spurs believed in. For the last two decades, we saw a flawless brand of basketball that could only be produced by The Big 3. The rest of the lineup would rotate and change year-in and year-out, but that trio was the foundation of it all.
All Spurs fans can close their eyes and remember what it looked like: Parker walking up like a quarterback dictating the perfect play or making an impossible left-handed lay-up, Duncan setting screens left and right, then finding himself turned to the basket ready to take his famous bank shot. Lastly, we can all remember the athletic freak Manu Ginobili taking shots he wasn’t supposed to and drilling them or forcing a signature euro-step and dunking on the defender.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) December 27, 2016
They were all so different, but they all believed in the system and most importantly they believed in each other. They were selfless and they wanted to win, solidifying team culture forever.
The Big 3 completely change the game and changed what this city is. San Antonio became the home of champions, a city of fighters and die-hard basketball fans. I remember crying when Timmy quietly retired, then crying when Manu decided to call it. Now that Tony has joined them, my reaction remained the same.
Those 3 names stepping away for the Spurs means the end of an era, the end of a time that has influenced greatly my personal life and the end of the greatest basketball ever played.
We will never again see a pre-game Duncan hugging the ball with two hands as he gets ready to for battle. That image of him holding that ball so tightly always reminded me that he was ours and we had nothing to worry about. We’ll never see a fired-up Manu Ginobili strongly punch the air in excitement after making a clutch shot, with or without hair, or even see him punch the air to kill a bat. There is still a chance but slim, that we see No. 9 Tony Parker with his classic two hands on hip pose, so confident and defiant like he always knew everything was going to be alright.
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It is all memories now and I am beyond thankful I was able to witness that love and greatness from the Big Three, there will never be another grouping like it.
For 15 plus years, the uniform for the city of San Antonio looked only three ways: a black and silver shirt with either a No. 9, 20 or 21. Now in the city, one can run into fans rocking the new updated uniform that has a No. 12, 8, 5, 4 or 10.
It is bitter-sweet to see the new numbers because it’s a reminder that the 9, 20, or 21 are now vintage and moving forward will live as legendary stories told to the future generations. Still, new numbers on the uniforms bring up a new excitement for the future. We don’t know what to expect, but whatever it looks like, it is someone else’s turn.
Our beloved Spurs HEB commercials will look very different without the trio. I am sure that they will still be funny, but they will never be “cooking with Tony” funny.
As a city, we will always love and support our Spurs no matter what. Each era has a special place in our heart and each and every player to have worn that silver and black will forever be a part of our family – the Spurs family.