Every great player has a go-to move or shot that sets them apart from the competition and the San Antonio Spurs have been home to some of the best of the bunch.
When trying to encompass the greatness of certain NBA players, fans look to specific shots that set that individual apart from their competition. For various NBA fans, it might be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar‘s sky-hook, Allen Iverson‘s crossover or Kobe Bryant‘s fadeaway; but for San Antonio Spurs fans, there are a handful of exciting plays to remember.
With five championships to boast and an all-time win percentage just one-tenth away from 60 percent, San Antonio has been home to some incredibly productive players including all-time greats like Tim Duncan, David Robinson and George Gervin. Even so, some players simply don’t have signature moves or shots and instead rely on a wide variety of skills to get it done.
Robinson, for example, was one of the most skilled centers the league has ever seen, but he won’t make an appearance on this list because he used a wide arsenal of shots. A left-layup isn’t a move, nor is a mid-range jumper or a dunk. Maybe the drop-step, but he wasn’t dependant on it when push came to shove.
However, players like Gervin and Duncan have signature shots that we’ll look back on to remember their greatness for years to come. Today, we’re going to celebrate those go-to moves and shots in an attempt to preserve the legacy of five Spurs players who left major marks on franchise history.
Beware of No. 5, because it may be triggering to some of you more recent fans.
Next: No. 5 - The Steal & Slam
No. 5: Kawhi Leonard’s steal-and-slam
Is it too soon to start regarding former Spurs star Kawhi Leonard as a historic member of the silver and black yet? If you’re not ready to celebrate what good he did in the Alamo City then skip to the next slide, but for those of you who’ve moved on, Kawhi was incredible during his time with the team.
Though it was a long progression from a meek, unpolished prospect from San Diego State, Leonard developed into one of the most dominant defensive players in the sport while slowly yet surely becoming a ravaging scorer who can impose his will anywhere on the court.
One of the most iconic occurrences that Leonard would showcase in the silver and black was his steal-and-slam, which was outright robotic in the sense that he performed it the same way almost every time. Leonard used his massive mitts to intercept the ball in the middle of a pass or, more excitingly, outright rip the ball out of his opponent’s hands.
Just about every time he did, Kawhi would run the fastbreak like a locomotive and slam the ball with one hand in the same, understated dunk with his right hand. It’s a move he continued to highlight to this day with his hometown LA Clippers and one that’s earned him two Finals MVPs to date.
Leonard’s time with the Spurs will always be muddied because of the unprofessionalism that overshadowed his departure. Requesting a trade is one thing, but the dramatic events that ensued before the request were a whole different level of shady from the eyes of the Spurs’ fanbase.
With that said, Leonard was an incredible player for San Antonio and continues to be that everywhere he’s been since. It’s been almost two years since all of this took place and sooner or later, the fanbase will have to accept it and look back at what Kawhi did do for the Spurs instead of what he didn’t do.
Next: No. 4 - Cashing in at the bank
No. 4: Tim Duncan’s bank shot
For some fans, this is going to be a head-scratcher. You might ask ‘How is Timmy’s bank shot not the No. 1? It’s the most iconic shot from the most influential Spur!’
That’s a valid point and I see where you’re coming from, but for as influential as Tim was as a player, the bank shot isn’t all that exciting of a signature shot, which is on-brand for the greatest Spur of all-time. Timmy’s bank shot was reliable, clean, quick and accounted for a whole heap of points by the time his career was over.
When people go off the glass in the modern era, the first name that comes to mind is Duncan. He brought some old-school flair to the modern NBA when players like Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe and Vince Carter began this new school era of gaudy antics and high-flying theatrics. All the while, the quiet killer from Wake Forrest was pouring on buckets by playing to the fundamentals of the sport.
Duncan’s bank shot allowed him to shoot over just about anyone, including the few players who were tall and athletic enough to truly contest his jumper at the point of release. He used his careful diagnosis of his distance from the basket to put an arch on his jumper to carefully bounce it off the backboard and into the hoop.
Bank shots could make shooting around easier if you’re in the gym putting up jumpers, but it’s actually quite difficult in a competitive game setting. It requires intense focus, discipline and a high basketball IQ, which is why it makes perfect sense that the bank shot was Timmy’s signature shot.
Next: No. 3 - The Spin Cycle
No. 3: Tony Parker’s spin-move
After careful deliberation, I decided against highlighting the franchise’s greatest point guard for his signature floater. While Tony Parker‘s floater was epochal in the progression of smaller point guards finding ways to score near the rim, it’s simply not as exciting as Parker’s go-to spin move.
The degree of difficulty on a spin-move going at full force to the basket is beyond comprehension for most players, which is why you’ll oftentimes see a spin-move resulting in a travel. Few players have ever perfected their spin to the basket, and no one has done it the way Tony did at the height of his powers. Parker had complete body control with the ball in his hands, which made it near-impossible to stop him in his pursuit of the paint.
When Parker contorted his body into a full 360 to the basket, he’d do so using masterful footwork that allowed him to cycle around his defender, placing himself near the rim for an easy shot. Since he was so quick and the move seemed so effortless, Parker would drop his shot softly into the basket before nearby shot-blockers even had a chance to think.
Tony Parker spin cycle! ??? pic.twitter.com/wFIfHEAF7j
— The Crossover (@TheCrossover) April 23, 2017
Granted there were plenty of times when Tony got his shot stuffed near the rim, he made 49.1 percent of his shots in the NBA as a 6-foot-2 guard who didn’t shoot many threes or dunk the ball. This is a testament to his ability to leave opponents dumbfounded when he attacked the rim, which is a trait very few players at his position could boast.
Furthermore, there’s only one player whose spin move comes remotely close to Parker’s in the modern NBA and that’s Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving, who’s a champion and former Rookie of the Year and a six-time All-Star. Besides that, I can’t think of a single person whose ball-handling and body control could mimic the great Tony Parker’s.
However, there are still two other signature shots that I’d deem more influential to Spurs history.
Next: No. 2 - Cold like Ice
No. 2: George Gervin’s finger-roll
Utilizing a signature shot is one thing, but inventing it takes you to a whole new level of excellence. In the pantheon of creative finishers near the rim, Spurs legend George Gervin has to be near the top of the list. Back in the early 70s, ‘The Iceman’ invented the finger-roll layup and pummeled opponents with it through 12 NBA seasons of at least 21 points per game.
Gervin was in a class of his own in comparison to other NBA finishers because of his lanky, athletic build and elevation on his way to the rim. He was the most innovative finisher of his time for the way that he contorted his body when attacking the basket and absorbing contact near the basket. Regardless of how his opponents decided to guard him, Gervin was able to manipulate them into fouls by changing his shot in the air and laying the ball in ever so softly.
Before this, players would chuck the ball into the basket on layup attempts without putting thought int the finesse factor. Because of his long reach and remarkable leaping ability, Gervin was able to let the ball slide off the tips of fingers into the basket, thus creating the finger-roll.
This is a move that’s widely implemented today with players at every position trying their hand at it. For the Spurs, this signature shot was influential in creating a winning culture in the Alamo City led by selfless, unconventional players who stuck to their wits and played the right way.
Without Gervin’s finger-roll, the landscape of the NBA would look very different for ball handlers, slashers and post players.
Next: No. 1 - European Sensation
No. 1: Manu Ginobili’s Eurostep
The originator of this legendary move in the NBA, Spurs legend Manu Ginobili perfected his paradigmatic Eurostep before even making it to the NBA. Though he’s of Argentinian descent, Manu brought this move from his time playing for Kinder Bologna in Italy before leaping professional hoops in the United States.
Consisting of a two-step attack on the way to the rim, the eurostep is a move that has since been repurposed by just about every player in the league in one way or another. Though it was thought to be a travel before Manu brought light to the move, the eurostep consists of a ball-handler gathering their dribble and making great use of their two steps by taking a wide leap in one direction and quickly pivoting to another, creating separation from their defender for a layup.
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Manu, however, was able to use his eurostep to set up his teammates for open shots or even throw down a furious dunk. Coming into the league, Ginobili was erratic in his decision-making and got chewed out by head coach Gregg Popovich for trying to be too fancy. Eventually, Pop learned that Manu had undeniable verve that translated directly into winning plays for his ball-club.
While the finger-roll is a more practical shot to bring into the NBA, the eurostep is unique in that it’s implementation by more modern players like Dwyane Wade and James Harden allows for a player to put their individuality into it, whereas the finger-roll is pretty cut-and-dried as far as signature moves go.
The youngest generation of NBA fans are going to remember Harden’s eurostep because his lefty playstyle makes it easy for him to repurpose the move to his liking, but anyone who pays attention knows that Harden learned the move from watching Manu play.
Not only was he the first player to cultivate a shot of his nature in the NBA, but he was by far the best to ever perfect it and will always hold a place in Spurs fans’ hearts for his unmatched finesse.