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Don: I think this is the ONLY great 17 year run characterized by a single coach and a single starter. The ONLY one. Simply unprecedented. One other remarkable thing about this run of coach/player/superstar and many many changing parts: Their style of play has changed ...and changed dramatically over this run. In the early years Duncan was the hub of the offense and was a "twin tower" with David Robinson. Robinson, who had been a huge star in his own right graciously moved from being the offensive highlight of the team and put even more effort into defense...and Tim Duncan was the offensive focus. Then over many years the team changed and kept changing in composition...and over the last several years especially as Duncan has aged the focus of the offense changed considerably. Between the Robinson years and the more recent years...a different offensive focus arose as Parker and Ginobelli became stars in their own right and style and partook in 4 of the 5 championships while becoming stars in their own right. Parker significantly evolved as he added passing to his repertoire and his remarkable ability to penetrate, along with developing a reliable jump shot. Ginobelli is a remarkable player in his own right. In the last couple of years the team evolved again. This particular team this year remarkably showed off an exquisite passing attack spread throughout the team. So many players contributed in this thorough passing attack. Really remarkable that an entire team participated. I particularly found it fascinating in that Tiago Splitter, who looked like a big stiff to me, became the recipient and the passer of so many effective incredibly quick "touch passes" that resulted in baskets. Was he capable of this before he joined the Spurs? I doubt it. Finally this article expounded on advanced metrics by stats.com that chart things like "miles run by the team" spacing, and other advanced metrics that work to explain this transformation. The spurs outran the Heat by almost 1 mile in their 3rd and 4th games...and outpassed them by over 100 passes per game in that dominant stretch. Of relevance here: within the world of basketball, and often publicized, Coach "Pop" is well noted as a foodie. Last year, after losing the championship, two long time assistant coaches left to take over other pro teams and two new assistant coaches joined the team. One thing they noted was that at team and group preparatory meetings there diets were going to change from beer and burgers to wine and fish and finer dining. Maybe its Coach Pop's foodie obsession that has helped fuel this extended period of excellence. Were the Spurs that great in this series or the Heat that bad? I'm not sure. But it was a dominant victory during a long stretch of excellence.
Manu Ginobili has been one of the greatest shooting guards in NBA basketball over its long history, and coincidentally has a career which overlaps with Dwayne Wade's. Interesting ballplayer. While he has been a starter he's been a 6th man most of his career. He's played on one of the dominant franchises in NBA history; The San Antonio Spurs during the 2000's to this year, 2014, and similarly strong from 1990. That franchise has had 21 seasons of 50 wins or more since 1990, a truly astounding record of strength, competitiveness, dominance at times, and sustained long term excellence. Ginobili started his professional basketball career in South America and Europe, was drafted in the 2nd round by the spurs but stayed a few more years in European leagues before coming to the NBA. He ends up being one of the true international basketball stars, playing with dominance in several leagues. Ginobili has been a cog inside the San Antonio powerhouse basketball teams, being one of three stars with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker over their long run through the last dozen years. Ginobili primarily took a 2ndary role but has had astounding single game performances and many clutch games and moments. This long video shows his highlights in a number of areas, dribbling, passing, shooting driving, defense, etc. Another player with long term spectacular skills.
Note: I'm editing this post after the 2015-2016 season, two seasons after I initially wrote it. The numbers were originally based on 17 years, and I've changed them to be based on the full extant of Tim Duncan's career: 19 years. --- The year before Tim Duncan joined the San Antonio Spurs, they went 20-62 (.244). In the 19 years since he's played, the Spurs have performed as follows (copied from landofbasketball.com) including making the playoffs every single year (not to mention 26 of the past 27 years). Take a look at the 4th column from the left: winning percentage. It needs no analysis other than answering one question: is this the best 19-year streak of all-time in the NBA? This is ridiculous. 2015-16 San Antonio 67 - 15 .817 1st Southwest Division 6 - 4 .429 Lost West Conf Semis 2014-15 San Antonio 55 - 27 .671 2nd Southwest Division 3 - 4 .429 Lost West Conf 1st Rd 2013-14 San Antonio 62 - 20 .756 1st Southwest Division 16 - 7 .696 Won NBA Finals 2012-13 San Antonio 58 - 24 .707 1st Southwest Division 15 - 6 .714 Lost NBA Finals 2011-12 San Antonio 50 - 16 .758 1st Southwest Division 10 - 4 .714 Lost West Conf Finals 2010-11 San Antonio 61 - 21 .744 1st Southwest Division 2 - 4 .333 Lost West Conf 1st Rd 2009-10 San Antonio 50 - 32 .610 2nd Southwest Division 4 - 6 .400 Lost West Conf Semis 2008-09 San Antonio 54 - 28 .659 1st Southwest Division 1 - 4 .200 Lost West Conf 1st Rd 2007-08 San Antonio 56 - 26 .683 2nd Southwest Division 9 - 8 .529 Lost West Conf Finals 2006-07 San Antonio 58 - 24 .707 2nd Southwest Division 16 - 4 .800 Won NBA Finals 2005-06 San Antonio 63 - 19 .768 1st Southwest Division 7 - 6 .538 Lost West Conf Semis 2004-05 San Antonio 59 - 23 .720 1st Southwest Division 16 - 7 .696 Won NBA Finals 2003-04 San Antonio 57 - 25 .695 2nd Midwest Division 6 - 4 .600 Lost West Conf Semis 2002-03 San Antonio 60 - 22 .732 1st Midwest Division 16 - 8 .667 Won NBA Finals 2001-02 San Antonio 58 - 24 .707 1st Midwest Division 4 - 6 .400 Lost West Conf Semis 2000-01 San Antonio 58 - 24 .707 1st Midwest Division 7 - 6 .538 Lost West Conf Finals 1999-00 San Antonio 53 - 29 .646 2nd Midwest Division 1 - 3 . 250 Lost West Conf 1st Rd 1998-99 San Antonio 37 - 13 .740 1st Midwest Division 15 - 2 .882 Won NBA Finals (*) 1997-98 San Antonio 56 - 26 .683 2nd Midwest Division 4 - 5 .444 Lost West Conf Semis I am well aware of the Boston Celtics from 1956-1957 through 1968-1969. They had a more intense, higher winning percentage and more championships, but the Spurs have kept it going on for longer. Sure makes for good bar talk - these Spurs of the past quarter-century (and note that Gregg Popovich has coached Tim Duncan *every year of his career*, and now has more championships than anyone except Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach) ... must be considered when talking about the greatest franchises in NBA history. (*) Season shortened to 50 games due to lockout; other than this anomaly, Tim Duncan has won at least 50 games in every single season.
The game just started, I'm at a sports bar, and I want *both* teams to win! It hurts not to see Tim Duncan starting.