The history of the San Antonio Spurs and Kobe Bryant are intertwined
Earlier this year, the world was stunned to learn of the tragic passing of Los Angeles Lakers legend, Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others when their helicopter crashed outside of Los Angeles. Now, on what would have been his 42nd birthday, let’s look back at what Kobe meant to the San Antonio Spurs.
It’s impossible to talk about this history of the San Antonio Spurs without mentioning Kobe. The rivalry between the Kobe led Lakers and the Tim Duncan led Spurs defined the balance of power in the Western Conference, and the NBA as a whole, for much of the past twenty years.
Consider this: from the 1998-99 season until the ’14-15 season, only four teams won the West. Of those 16 Western Conference Championships, 13 belonged to either the Lakers or Spurs. And they rarely stopped at winning the West. The two teams captured 10 total NBA Championships across that same period. They were dominant.
The San Antonio Spurs helped Kobe elevate his game to a legendary level
Kobe would be the first to tell you that his career wouldn’t be the same without the San Antonio Spurs. As he told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, they were a driving force behind his rise to greatness.
“They forced me to raise my game to a championship level very quickly because of the way they played,” Bryant said of the Spurs. “The systematic approach to the game, their thinking on sequences, they play such a mental game. They play such a mistake-free game. It forced me at a really early age to step up to their level.”
You don’t have to look hard to find quotes of Kobe praising Spurs greats. He’s been very open for the high esteem that he held Popovich and the rest Big Three in. He loved everything about Tim Duncan’s game, had incredible respect for Manu Ginobili, and wanted to help change the world of women basketball with Tony Parker.
The admiration was a two-way street. There we few players in the league that Popovich had more respect for than Kobe. In an interview with Mark Medina of USA Today, Pop called Kobe a ‘superhero’. “He was like a superhero who was actually human,” said Popovich. “There aren’t really any superheroes that are really human. But we kind of thought of him as one of those kinds of people.”
Kobe was a superhero. Like Superman, he gave us all something to strive for. He set a standard for greatness that we all should aspire to. He pushed his teammates, the San Antonio Spurs, and everyone else who knew him to be the best versions of themselves. And in doing so, left a permanent mark on the legacy of the franchise we all love.
Over the course of our lives, we will all surely see hundreds of great basketball players. But we won’t ever see another quite like Kobe. Rest in peace Kobe, we miss you.