TThe NBA during the 2000s and 2010s highlighted several dominant teams who have made successful and multiple championship runs such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors, and the Lebron James’ led teams Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers. All of these teams are celebrated very well in terms of accolades and even media exposure, but there is one team who seem to be equally successful during this period but seemingly took a back seat from the limelight – and that is the San Antonio Spurs.
Factors that affected their popularity
Like the other NBA teams mentioned, the Spurs have won multiple championship in these two decades specifically in 2003, 2005, and 2009 during the 2000s, and one in the 2010s back in 2014. While this may be so, it seems that there is not much adulation around the league (or even fan recognition) on this San Antonio NBA Team. Why is that? Let’s check out some key reasons:
1. The Spurs is a small market team
According to this Reddit.com post, the San Antonio Spurs ranked #26 out of the NBA teams in terms of its media market size. This means that the tendency of an advertiser or an entity to earn when partnering with the team is highly likely to be lower when compared to other teams that rank higher such as the LA Lakers (rank #3) or the Golden State Warriors (rank #11). This is just one aspect why the Spurs cannot get the kind of exposure the other NBA teams can have thus the team’s popularity is actually affected.
2. They have been long regarded as a “boring” team
They say that the Spurs are a boring NBA team and not fun to watch. With a lot of post-up moves and half-court sets, their game play back then were not as attractive to fans during that time period. In the span of 20 years since year 2000 (except for the 2019-2020 season), the Spurs average close to 101 points per game. Comparing that to another successful team during that time period such as the Lakers, they averaged just about the same with almost 103 points per game. However, when it comes to comparing to their Championship seasons, the disparity on points became higher where the Lakers averaged around 101 points per game while the Spurs only averaged close to 97 points per game on each of their Championship seasons. This goes to show that the Spurs are indeed a “boring” team because they don’t score as much as any other Champion team back then.
3. They did not achieve a “back-to-back” championship success
While the San Antonio Spurs enjoyed multiple championships during this time period, they were not lucky any enough to earn a privilege of having back to back championships unlike the other teams who also won during this time period (three teams actually – Lakers, Heat, and Warriors). The closest they were in achieving that feat was during the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 season in which they lost to the Miami Heat in 2013 in 7 games despite leading the series 3-2. They eventually won it the next season versus the same team to get an exact revenge.
This short of a milestone have probably made them lose the “elite” status when compared to the other successful teams in the same period. They were even joked by the POTUS himself Barack Obama in which he was caught on record to tell the San Antonio Spurs 2014 Champion team the following:
“need any tips on winning back-to-back, you know where to find me.”– Barack Obama telling a joke to the 2014 Champion San Antonio Spurs
Why they deserve more accolades
The Spurs have been in the spotlight in one way or the other during these two decades but they can’t seem to be at par with the other teams in terms of popularity because of the above reasons. But do they really deserve that kind of treatment? We think otherwise. Here are some from a long list of reasons why the Spurs are successful and deserve better recognition:
1. They have very successful regular and post season runs
According to records, the Spurs had winning records and reached the playoffs on all seasons in this time period. Their winning percentage in total is 70% and will keep a total winning record on even if they lose all games for a little over 10 more seasons. Also during this time period, the Spurs reached all post seasons with only 5 1st round playoff losses out of 19 postseasons. Check out how did they fare when compared to other successful teams in this time period:
Out of all four NBA teams that have earned multiple championships within this time period, the Spurs ran away from both the regular season wins and post season appearances. A distant second would be either the Lakers or Heat with the Lakers probably would have a slight edge as it has more post season appearances and earned 1 more championship than the Heat.
2. The Big Three
The formula of developing or forming three better performing players on a team was a long standing proven way to be successful in the NBA. The San Antonio Spurs big three were mainly responsible for the great success of the Spurs franchise as these three either started their careers or developed them further during this time period. Tim Duncan was drafted in 1997, Tony Parker was drafted in 2001 while Manu Ginobili joined the team a year after.
The Spurs big three was considered as the most dominant all time. Bleacher Report ranked them at #5 while Sports Zion placed them at #6 all-time. The trio played together from 2002-2016 and have won 575 regular season games (record holder), 126 post season games, and 4 championships.
3. Gregg Popovich
For every successful franchise, coaches are highly regarded as the main responsible as they directly impart philosophies, mindsets, and of course appropriate plays that truly fit his / her players. Gregg Popovich may be regarded as being lucky because he has the big three under his tutelage on the years the franchise were successful, but there are some years within this period that he still coached winning seasons and even with post season appearances along with it. The Spurs Big Three played together from 2002 to 2016 so in this time period, he still had winning seasons before and after the Big Three played for him altogether. His winning percentage on both regular and post seasons are superb with currently standing at 67% and 60% respectively.
All in all, “Pop” may have put in great pieces on his teams under his helm, but his coaching skills cannot be overlooked because of the successes of the Spurs over the years. To top it all up, his hosting of elegant dinners on Michelin starred restaurants among his players were probably one of the key factors of the success too.
With all of these things pointed out, it is truly emphasized that the San Antonio Spurs have amassed great success during the 2000s and 2010s. They have always been there every season and consistently bring great competition towards the other NBA teams.
In response to the question that the Spurs are an underappreciated NBA team of the 2000s and 2010s, indeed they are, but considering the demeanor of Coach Pop, the Spurs front office, and even the players, they just don’t mind at all and let all their game do the talking.