The San Antonio Spurs are not flashy like the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s. They are not filled with star power like the Los Angeles Lakers teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s. They aren’t dominant like the Tom Brady-led New England Patriots.
But now that the team has swept the Memphis Grizzlies and advanced to the NBA Finals for the fifth time since 1999, the Spurs have a chance join those others and establish their legacy as one of the most dominant teams of their era.
The Spurs have won four championships since drafting Tim Duncan No. 1 overall, but somehow they have escaped conversations about the most dominant teams of all time. They could be overshadowed by other, more headline-grabbing teams like the Lakers, with the team’s tabloid-worthy drama between Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. It could be that the Spurs play an unspectacular game, trading high-scoring for suffocating defense.
A lot of the reason likely lies with Tim Duncan, who, along with Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett, revolutionized the role of big men in the game. Duncan is dominant on the boards, has an array of post moves, and a 15-foot bank shot that’s unstoppable.
But with all his dominance, Duncan isn’t flashy, isn’t loud, doesn’t even have a nickname. In fact, he’s kind of boring and so media shy that, when reports emerged this week that he and wife Amy are divorcing, reporters weren’t even sure what year their oldest child was born.
While the Spurs might not be exciting for the casual fan, those in the know relish at the chance to watch them in action. Bill Polian, who had a hand in creating two NFL powerhouses with the Buffalo Bills in the early 1990s and Indianapolis Colts in the 2000s, compared the Spurs to the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers and Steinbrenner New York Yankees dynasties.
“That’s certainly not an accident,” Polian says. “They’re what I call team-centric. It’s about the team. Yes, professional sports are a business, and you have to have a good building that generates revenue. But ultimately those franchises are about the product on the field or on the ice or on the court. It’s about winning.”
The Spurs still have a bit longer to find out if their dynasty will include a fifth NBA Finals win. They await the winner of the Miami Heat/Indiana Pacers series.