Former San Antonio Spurs guard Doc Rivers has some words for anyone that makes a habit of assigning asterisks to NBA championships.
The San Antonio Spurs have had to hear “asterisk” talk ever since Phil Jackson first tried to belittle their first NBA championship in 1999. Since then, Shaquille O’Neal has jumped on that bandwagon, even recently doubling down further. Doc Rivers had some words for people that stoop to that level.
Rivers spent the last two years of his playing career with the Spurs, retiring after the 1996 season. Since then, he’s had some classic playoff battles with San Antonio and has formed a close relationship with Gregg Popovich.
The LA Clippers head coach recently joined his son Austin Rivers on an episode of Austin’s podcast Go Off to catch up on all things NBA when the topic of a potential 2020 champion came up. Austin brought up how some people think this season’s NBA title (if there is one) could be seen as a lesser accomplishment due to the circumstances. Both father and son, however, disagreed with such a claim.
“I would say this is one of the hardest ones to ever win,” said Austin. “Part of winning a title is keeping your focus,” added Doc. “Teams that keep their focus throughout this whole time — they’re gonna deserve it.”
Doc then turned his attention to the people that assign asterisks to NBA titles.
Former San Antonio Spurs guard Doc Rivers goes off on asterisk adders
“It’s so hard to win. I always say that the people who say ‘put an asterisk by it’, they’re the losers.” The winners don’t ever say ‘put an asterisk by it’. If we win it, we’re gonna have a parade, we’re gonna have a big trophy in our case, and we’re gonna get rings.”
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Rivers would know about celebrating a championship, as his Boston Celtics defeated Phil Jackson’s Los Angeles Lakers in 2008 to win it all. Jackson has made similar belittling claims about the Houston Rockets’ two titles in the past, stating they wouldn’t have won them if Michael Jordan stuck around.
It’s funny that the two biggest proponents of the “asterisk” talk were directly involved in losing out on those championships. Of course, Tim Duncan and the Spurs swept Shaq’s Lakers to win it all in 1999 while Phil Jackson’s Bulls couldn’t make it to the NBA Finals during either of the Rockets’ title runs.
For having won so many championships in their own right, Shaquille and Jackson certainly like to worry about the accomplishments of others a little bit too often. From Shaq’s point of view, it must be tough to always know he has one fewer ring than Tim Duncan and was recently ranked behind The Big Fundamental in ESPN’s top players ever, so I understand his need to grasp at straws.
But as Rivers concluded: “Whoever wins it wins it.”