The NBA has changed drastically over the years as the league has become much more individual-oriented. However, despite all the changes, there has been one constant: the San Antonio Spurs‘ consistent excellence of team basketball.
That greatness cannot be displayed any better than through the Spurs’ capturing their fifth championship in 15 years on Sunday night, as San Antonio both showed that it takes a complete team to win a championship and cemented their legacy in the history books of the NBA.
After how San Antonio lost in the 2013 Finals to the Miami Heat, people wrote off the Spurs as too old and finished. Nevertheless, they came back even better in 2014 with a season no one will forget.
A big reason why the Spurs were so much better this season was because of the transformation of Kawhi Leonard into a star. The 22-year-old missed an important free throw late in Game 6 of last year’s Finals that could have sealed the championship for the Spurs, but we all know how that ended.
Leonard responded in this year’s Finals with a performance that earned him Finals MVP honors, the youngest to receive those honors since Tim Duncan in 1999 when the Spurs won their first championship. Whenever the day comes when Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili retire, the Spurs know that the franchise has a superstar-in-waiting in Leonard.
The Spurs’ superior supporting cast was another reason why San Antonio dominated Miami. While the Heat had the best player on the floor in LeBron James, the Spurs had different guys step up each night and perform at a high level. Whether it was Danny Green, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills or any other role player who excelled, the Spurs’ explosive offense was able to expose Miami’s anemic defense.
In addition, the Spurs’ outstanding defense was able to cut off Miami’s supporting cast, forcing James to carry the heavy load for most of the series.
But what makes the Spurs’ excellence this season stand out is the fact that San Antonio has had the same core for the last 15 years. The chances of a player/coach combo like Duncan and Gregg Popovich winning five championships over the same span of time again is highly unlikely in a league where change is the most consistent entity.
Duncan is the greatest power forward to ever play the game, while Popovich is one of the greatest coaches of all time. His coaching prowess cannot be shown better than through the way he has managed Duncan’s minutes over the years, as Duncan played more like a 28-year-old rather than a 38-year-old in the Finals.
And of course, no one can leave out the two future Hall-of-Famers Parker and Ginobili, who now have four rings. Parker was the best player on the Spurs this season, as the development of his jump shot has made him one of the most lethal point guards on the offensive end in the NBA.
As for Ginobili, everyone considered him useless after his poor performance in last year’s Finals. But now healthy and improved, Ginobili showed to us all once again why he is arguably the greatest sixth man to ever play the game.
The Spurs may be champions, but San Antonio still has some important decisions to make this offseason. Diaw and Mills are both free agents, but the most important question this summer revolves around the player option that Duncan has. If Duncan exercises his option, the future Hall-of-Famer will go one more round before most likely calling it quits. But if he declines the option, Duncan will go out as a champion.
As for Parker and Ginobili, both players also have one more year left on their contracts and should return next season. Whatever happens to this Hall of Fame trio, it was sure special to watch them have by far their best season together, especially because it was beautiful team basketball.