For almost two decades, the San Antonio Spurs have accumulated an impressive collection of rings, bronze hardware and gold trophies.
Between future Hall-of-Famers Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, and head coach Gregg Popovich, the Spurs have combined for 18 NBA championship rings, three most valuable player awards, three Coach of the Year awards and two Sixth Man of the Year awards.
But there is still one box left unchecked on their impressive basketball resumes.
Throughout basketball history, all the great teams repeated as champions. Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics did it, the Los Angeles Lakers with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it, Hakeem Olajuwon’s Houston Rockets did it, Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls did it, and the Lakers again with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal did it. Even LeBron James pulled off the back-to-back feat for the Miami Heat.
“Obviously, it’s back-to-back. It’s the last thing we want to accomplish with Coach Pop and the Big 3. It’s a big motivation for us,” Parker said on NBA TV’s “Game Time.”
For all the great things Duncan, Ginobili and Parker have accomplished in their soon-to-be-Hall-of-Fame careers, they’ve never repeated as champs. And this is not sitting well with this very proud group.
Parker knows he doesn’t have much time left with Duncan (38) and Ginobili (37). Even Popovich can’t coach forever. The 65-year-old coach has flirted with the idea of spending more time traveling the world than traveling in NBA cities. Those brutal winter trips to Chicago, Minnesota and Cleveland can certainly wear you down.
“We don’t know how long it’s gonna last,” Parker said. “Timmy, it might be his last year; Manu, it might be his last year. And we don’t know how long Pop is gonna do it. I know he wants to travel the world and drink wine. We need to take advantage right now.”
Parker added: “We understand that, and we’re approaching it like it’s our last one. Just because of that it’s great motivation for us. We want to try one more time.”
Repeating as champs will be a tall order for these Spurs, especially in the ultra-competitive Western Conference where at least six teams have a shot at reaching the NBA Finals.
But these Spurs are more than up for the challenge. They have a good mix of veterans to go with some young studs, such as Kawhi Leonard (23), Danny Green (27), Patty Mills (26) and Corey Joseph (23). Leonard is a budding star who could eventually be the face of the franchise when the Big 3 hangs up the sneakers. Leonard had his coming-out party last season when he was named NBA Finals MVP.
Pop has been able to rest his older players and lean on his bench during the regular season. When the playoffs start, he’ll call on the Big 3 for one more championship run. A sixth title would vault Duncan into an exclusive club. With the exception of Russell’s Celtics teams, only Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kareem and Robert Horry have won at least six rings.
“The West is a beast. A lot of great teams,” Parker said. “It’s a long season, we just want to make sure we stay healthy. It’s the biggest key for us. It doesn’t matter where we finish in the rankings.”
The Spurs will begin their arduous climb back to the top as the sixth-seeded team in the Western Conference playoffs. History won’t be on their side because only one team — the 1995 Houston Rockets — were able to win the title as a sixth seed.