Spurs’ Path To Success Still One Of A Kind

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Don’t bother trying to get a peek at the blueprints. There’s nothing you can glean from San Antonio Spurs’ secret formula that will work for your team.

No two championship teams are built alike, unless you are the Spurs and all four of your title-winning teams have an identical foundation: Tim Duncan at the epicenter with coach Gregg Popovich and GM R.C. Buford at the controls.

Those same building blocks, along with future Hall of Famers Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, have allowed the Western Conference-champion Spurs to chase title No. 5 this season. This current Spurs team highlights a ridiculously rewarding 15-year run that transcends this “win-now-and-at-whatever-cost” era that has claimed so many other organizations that were unable to sustain a level of excellence with the same parts.

The only organization with a better championship track record during this same era is that other would-be dynasty in Los Angeles. But the while the Spurs are going to contend with either Miami or Indiana for the Larry O’Brien trophy next month, the Lakers entered an offseason of uncertainty with Kobe Bryant on the mend from Achilles surgery and Dwight Howard‘s free-agency drama looming. It makes you wonder what might have been if the Lakers had been able to manage the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe dynamic and if coach Phil Jackson had stayed entrenched in the organization from the time they started winning championships until now.

What the Spurs have accomplished, however, is not up for debate. They’ve defied logic, the odds and the age of their biggest stars to reach the opportunity to compete for another title when they could have torn those franchise blueprints up a half-dozen times and started over from scratch.

The contrast in styles between the Spurs and Lakers is startling, albeit with nearly identical results for two franchises whose accomplishments the past 15 seasons will come to define an era in NBA history.

The Spurs stuck to their principles with a meticulously crafted core of stars and a series of role players who generally played better in San Antonio than they did elsewhere. The Lakers tried to reinvent themselves regularly (selling their organizational soul in the process, some would say) to keep the pace with their rivals in South Texas.

Don’t forget, the Spurs tipped off the championship chase in 1999 with Duncan and David Robinson, followed by the first of the three straight Shaq-Kobe title teams a year later.

In a copycat league where everything from the locker room set up to the analytics department is modeled on a nearly identical template from organization to organization, no one has been able to build a sturdier and more consistent operation than the Spurs.

It starts with having a transcendent superstar like Duncan, whose arrival sparked the Spurs’ renaissance. Add in unwavering discipline in the front office and on the bench (in Popovich and Buford), some splendid ownership (Peter Holt) and a market conducive to staying the course (rather than overreacting to the usual ebb and flow of the league) and San Antonio’s success was born.

The Spurs haven’t been to The Finals since winning their fourth title in 2007. Six years? That is an eternity in professional sports. Not many franchises would have survived the fallout from their Western Conference finals flame out against the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, when their juggernaut rolled into that series and led 2-0 before losing four straight games. Not many organizations with championship expectations would have (or could have) stayed the course in those other non-Finals years as well.

There’s no doubt the San Antonio market helps. There isn’t a rush to tear things down every offseason just for the sake of remodeling. The Lakers have changed course countless times during the same 15-year span, spending countless millions to and running through a series of coaches and role players to help them flesh out championship teams led by O’Neal and Bryant and later Bryant and Pau Gasol.

The Spurs understood that even with a power-packed outfit like the one they fielded during Duncan’s prime that there was no guarantee they’d win it all every season. That’s an understanding the Lakers never seemed to grasp during the early and mid-aughts.

The Lakers, spoiled a bit by those three straight titles in 2000, ’01 and ’02, tried to remodel overnight after watching the Spurs’ 2003 run. So they signed future Hall of Famers Karl Malone and Gary Payton in an attempt to chase a fourth ring and fell hard to the Detroit Pistons in The Finals in 2004 — the same team the Spurs beat in seven games a year later for the title.

Fast forward seven years later and the Spurs have four main pieces from that 2005 team — Duncan, Popovich, Parker and Ginobili — still on top of their respective games.

Those are the building blocks for a dynasty … the Spurs’ way!


  1. bruce says:

    having been born in SA i have been a die hard even in the painful years (b4 title in ’99). win or lose they will always be my one and only team (even though i have lived in the dfw area for 20 years i will never have a second team). always wanted just that one title after suffering year after year to being good but not that good.

    titles 2, 3 and 4 were gravy, but 5 would be the best dessert for the 3 amigos and the city which will always be home in my heart.

    Go Spurs Go!

  2. 34yr fan says:

    …you don’t know jack……verganol……………………just another hater……………..Spurs make everyone ‘play horrible’…..it is called defense.!! Maybe teams would do better trying to learn HOW to play defense instead of just being an offensive team…..and PS: It was the Grizz that got LUCKY by playing 2 teams in a row with and injured key starter/star………LOL

  3. Art says:

    Two people own beautiful houses. One of them bought it paying big bucks and another one built the house from scratch. There is nothing bad with first owner but should people admire him the same way as the later one?
    Yes, Parker & Ginobili are superstars and future hall of famers, but:

    Tony Parker was Spurs 28th pick (the last in 1st around)
    Manu Ginobili was Spurs 57th pick!!!
    Kawhi Leonard (15th ) was traded on the draft day for Spurs 2008 26th pick G. Hill
    Tiago Splitter was Spurs 28th pick
    Danny Green – 46th pick by Cavaliers, played for them 20 games less than 6 min per game and waived.
    Cory Joseph was Spurs 28th pick
    Gary Neal – undrafted. Before Spurs he played in Europe.
    Boris Diaw – 21st pick, was waived by the Bobcats
    Matt Bonner – 45th pick
    Dejuan Blair – was Spurs 37th pick
    Nando de Colo was Spurs 53rd pick

    Miami/Lakers fans, do you still don’t understand the difference?

  4. dr.max says:

    spurs must be champions this year

  5. G tha Boss says:

    For all of you Lebron fans and heat bandwagoners…. Keep in mind Lebron met the Spurs in the finals during our last championship and what happened?….. Need a reminder….. The same thing that happened to the lakers and memphis this year!!!!! Sweep!!! We perform with poise and precision when it counts!!!!

  6. Rick says:

    Definitely pulling for the Big Fundamental in the Finals… and will be absolutely ecstatic if he’s matched up against Hibbert instead of Bosh or Birdman to boot.

  7. MANU FAN says:

    Wait until Miami beats Indiana!!!! Nobody talks about Indiana! Im from Uruguay, I folow the spurs since 2002 because of MANU. I grew up with this team, and I know that nobody deserve more this champ than TIM DUNCAN!

  8. Bokal!! says:

    It’s so funny how a lot of spurs fans commenting here feel as if the spurs deserve everything since they have built a team from the ground up. So what? The NBA is made of franchises and teams will do what they need to win championships. C’mon, dissing on LA and Miami just because they acquire superstar talent on their rosters? Which team hasn’t? What do you think Duncan, Parker and ginobili are, benchwarmers? They’re superstars and future hall of famers, why do you react if another team acquires talent to boost up their roster?

    Get real, teams will win with talent on their rosters and diligence in their style of play. You hate on Miami just because they don’t suit what your ignorant/close-minded concept of what a basketball team should be. The game evolves and if you can’t handle what the game has become today, go watch some reruns of your purported glory days and head on over to a psychiatrist so someone listens.

    And to all you idiots dissing Lebron for his style of play; the man has been league MVP numerous times, brought a lot of interest back to the game (may it be hype or a genuine understanding of play) and plays basketball like you never will. Get over yourselves!

    • 34yr fan says:

      ……Spurs did not get to the Finals for 22yrs before ’99…..AND 3 teams have ‘won’ by buying the best players off of other teams….it is NOT the same as drafting and building…..just the way it is….. some teams and fans need instant gratification and others see the benefits of ‘building’ a team long term…..

  9. Alan Hollway says:

    The only thing the Spurs have not done is defend their title do a repeat or three peat, that may in the eyes is some detract from what they have done but if they win it this year they will have won 5 titles in 15 years, not bad! But also let us look at the years they have missed out. In 2004 they were beaten by the .04,fluke shot by Derek Fisher, had that not happened, the spurs would have beaten Detrioit because they beat them in 05. Again in 2006, they lost a heart breaker 7 game series against Dallas when Ginobli fouled Nowitzki. The reality is that the spurs were within a fingernail of winning successive titles between 2003 and 2007, that could have been 5 championships. They have been more consistent than the Lakers, and if they win this year will have won as many rings with a fraction of the Hollywood budget and dramas. They have made it to the Western Conference Final 8 times in 15 years winning 5 times and remain unbeaten in a NBA final and that is with basically the same personnel. Hats off to the Spurs they are not only basketballs greatest franchise but the best franchise in all sporting codes at least for the last 15 years.

  10. ginobi says:

    I can’t wait for the SPURS- PACERS finals!!!

  11. busa-boss says:

    i thought the sacramento kings lead by chris webber was the champs in 2002…
    oh sorry…lakers three-peat via sweep versus nets…
    (refs/officials/stern made the lakers champs…not kobe-shaq tandem)
    remember game 6 of the 2002 western conference finals——shame title
    faker fans,,,i mean laker fans you should know that scam

    • 34yr fan says:

      …you state facts….anyone who thinks otherwise can go and read the book the ref(won’t say name) wrote when in PRISON for doing the things he did when he was a an nba ref…….

  12. Kalbo!! says:

    I wonder why there are only a few heat fans here.. Biased, immature and talking non-sense at all? Don’t even have anything to support their claim… It just shows how uneducated and how low their basketball IQ are… Blinded by the shining stars of miami, overlooking the deeper sense of basketball… I don’t hate the heat, but i hate these kind of fans…

  13. Kalbo!! says:

    Could you be mature and civilized enough to stop calling others what you are 10x? These people are just sharing their opinions and siting some facts… That’s everybody’s right… And you, you dictate as if you’re a god without respect, remorse or consideration to others… I bet you don’t have proper education and/or was not raised well… I feel for your parents… It’s a good thing people like you are not as many as we are at least…

  14. Art says:

    Memphis is as good as Indiana (at least) and went fishing. Heat – Pacers 2:2 (if not stupid mistake at the end of game 1 Indiana could lead 3:1). But Miami fans are talking that Heat sweep Spurs. First of all they should wait until they are in the finals.
    The article about Spurs is very good. They deserve the best. Definitely the most respected team in NBA for the last 15 years. Popovich is the best coach, Duncan is the best Big Man and Duncan-Parker-Ginobili are the best Big Three.
    Lakers have a lot of achievements for these years too and Kobe as well as Duncan are two best players in post Jordan era. LeBron can join them only when he starts playing without refs help.

  15. Why is the Spurs constantly in the Playoffs and now competing for the Title after sweeping the formidable Grizzlies in the West Championship game?

    1.Old School Basketball, Stellar Defense, Gets the job done without drama
    2.Team Chemistry ( rarely ever makes drastic changes to the roster unless needed)
    3.Solid Player & Team Management throughout (G.Hill Pacers was drafted by the Spurs)

  16. Ray Ray says:

    People forget the Spurs tanked a whole season sitting Robinson to get Tim Duncan. but they have been a solid 50+ win team ever since. But championships are not bought there earned, so to those of you dissing the Lakers for investing in their players the results never lie 7 NBA finals trips in 10 years don’t hate.

    • kavika6 says:

      Do you really think their plan was to lose all season for the possibility of getting a high draft pick? The Spurs got very lucky in the draft lottery but it wasn’t planned.

    • 34yr fan says:

      The former league MVP David Robinson was INJURED ……do you not get that ……go back and check rayray…it led to one of the worst seasons in their history in which they have only missed the playoffs a few times in 40 years or so….and Again they could have taken someone else besides someone who grew up wanting to be an Olympic swimmer…..and didn’t Boston think they were gonna get the first pick? …..PS: I watch and listened to almost all of the games that year(like any other year) anyway….and the draft was recorded just in case the Spurs got the #1 pick…..

  17. Nicolai says:

    Spurs are in a way like Celtic’s in the 50’s and 60’s..and why? becaouse Tim Duncan is like Bill Russel- both most unselfish team players i have seen – that’s why they are in the finals again and it doesn’t defy logic – team play will always beat individualism and Spur’s player know that – every player is in service of team and not vice-versa

  18. Sickou says:

    Read Sekou Smith’s next article, I’m sure he’s going to make a big fuss on that illegal screen call on Lebron in Game 4. Sekou, your Queen and your team’s having a hard time with the Pacers, its now time to blame the refs.

  19. Authority says:

    Norris Cole! Is he a point guard? Birdman, lucky is he. Norris Cole will get schooled by Corey Joseph before he reaches T. Parker. As for your Birdman he will be facing some serious men who have proud, knowledge, wisdom, playing and teaching experiences. It won’t be his first time facing the unbreakable Spurs.

    Oh! By the way Heat needs to get over their stumbling block (The Pacers) first.

  20. joe says:

    I love how the Spurs developed their team an grew and kept with it. Unlike the Heat who are a quick fix dreamteam thrown together to win a ring, the Spurs championships show resolve and demonstrate hard work from on court and front management pays off.

  21. cp3 epic basketball says:

    Heat will win because they have a better bench, Norries Cole and Birdman are beast and you got Ray to sub for Wade when he get tired, Shane for LeBron James, Cole for Mario and they all good. (Chris Paul is the best)

  22. wade03 says:

    i have been a heat fan since wade first joined the heat. not every heat fan is a bandwagon fan. when we make the finals though it will a really hard series. yo can never underestimate the spurs. tim duncan is the best player of his generation, it amazes me how he always goes under the radar. 4x champion, 2x mvp, 3x finals mvp. and then look it all first nba selection and all first defensive selections. it just incredible he deserved them. unlike kobe who has been in all nba defensive teams when he clearly doesnt deserve them

  23. TTKIN says:

    OKC came close to doing it the same way, and are still currently contenders. The difference is that nearly everyone who has ever worn a Spurs uniform was willing to take a paycut to stay. Durant and Westbrook both signed for less than they couldve made elsewhere. The problem is that there was one guy who wasnt willing to take a paycut, and he now leads Houston.

  24. OldFart says:

    The spurs stole this blueprint of building a dynasty team that is successful for years and years with the same core group of guys from the 50’s-60’s Celtics built around Russell and I have to say, they did it a helluva lot better. High praise is due, for sure, but I think its good to keep it a bit in perspective.

    • 34yr fan says:

      ….There was NO free agency in the 50’s and 60’s so ….NO the ‘Blueprint’ wasn’t Stolen from Anyone !!

  25. hipster says:

    Pop looks like he just finished off three bottles of wine in that top picture.

  26. 305!!! says:

    Miami will win in 5 games and the finals in 4. The Spurs have nothing to offer Miami, they are old and slow.

    • hipster says:

      why don’t you go look at the Spurs roster and find out just how OLD they are???? Nevermind… I will save you the trouble and time….Spurs starters average age is:…. ready for this ??? 29.0—-Heat starters average age is: 29.8 SOOOOOO who is OLD???? It gets even better….Total team average for Spurs is 28.5 and the Heat???? 31.3…… Youngest starter for the Spurs is 22 and for the Heat it is 27……..SO………….again I ask you ????…. WHO is old???? I’m thinking it looks pretty even as far as AGE goes between the Spurs and the Heat…..BUT , then again, the Heat are NOT in the Finals….only the Eastern Conference Finals

      Also, the Spurs are slow? Parker is the fastest player in the league.

      Based on your incorrect statements I question whether you watch much basketball.

      • Marco29 says:

        Fully agreed. Everybody is focussing on the age of Duncan and Manu but the rest of the crew is quite young and Duncan and Manu are still performing at high level despite their age. We have heard this argument for years now, even in 2007 when they swept the Cavs and I am suprised that there are still some people who haven’t figured out it is not true.
        Let the Heat first win their CF and will talk of the matchups afterwards.

      • 34yr fan says:

        …hey “hipster”….. when you use another person’s blog you are supposed to credit them….right??? I ran the #’s on the ages….just say so……….your ‘portion’ of the post began with ….Also” just sayin’

    • Kalbo!! says:

      Don’t mind the idiots… Good thing there are only a few of them who lost their soul…

    • 34yr fan says:

      …..5 games huh????………….you can start over with you ‘predictions’

  27. kwp 968 says:

    against lakers most ppl was saying lakers will beat them, against gs ppl saying they will outrun them, against memphis ppl saying they are too big for them…. and most likely they will said the heat is a better team….. never giving some respect to SA SPURS baby

  28. Filipino Idiot says:

    The achievements of the Spurs SHOULD not be compared with the Lakers.

    The Spurs is the superior team both in the court and outside of it. If anyone has doubts, don’t compare the number of championships. Just compare the expenses.

    The Lakers will buy any player just for the sake of competing and not minding the luxury tax. The Spurs built their team through time.

    And also, coach Pop is the best coach ever. Phil Jackson is a joke relying on superstars.

  29. Ari says:

    There would have been no titles without Manu. And Bruce Bowen was a heck of a defender. Lets see who will stop Le Bron in the finals.

    • 34yr fan says:

      Kawhi Leonard will defend him and slow him down….. you don’t need to Stop him….just take him off of his game a little …..because the rest of that team cannot beat the Spurs…..period !!

    • Billy says:

      “There would have been no titles without Manu”

      That’s like saying there would have been no titles without Kobe. Taking out a key component of what made that team good is going to have an effect… It doesn’t make you some sort of genius for stating the obvious.

    • just sayin' says:

      Spurs Circa ’99 didn’t have a Manu Ginobili and yet they won their first championship

  30. G Man says:

    Spurs play basic team basketball . They can win this year . Which coach will bench his starters in the fist quarter and come back to win in overtime certainly not Miami . GO SPURS GO

  31. Neil Young says:

    Tim Duncan has had way more success than Leblowj, and knows how to win without flopping, complaining, or narcissism. He is a remnant of how great the NBA used to be

    • 34yr fan says:

      Hey Guillermo……Spurs have 4 rings and the Fakers have 5 since ’99……but LA has something that the Spurs don’t have (and never want)……and that is….. LOSSES in the Finals 2 of them…..and the Heat have one LOSS in the Finals as well…… I wonder if it hurts more to LOSE the Conference Finals OR the Finals???? Hmmmmmmm, what do you think? And yes…… the LaLa organisation ALWAYS buys its way to championships…….haven’t a clue as to how to BUILD a team……How many more “new” players do you think that LA will buy this year???? I think 2 or 3…..again!!

    • 34yr fan says:

      here, here !!

  32. guillermo ruggiero says:

    In the last 15 years the Spurs have won three rings against four of Lakers…but Spurs has invested 400 millions and Lakers 1200 millions

  33. skyler says:

    The spurs are adept team they have shooters and a good post game the heat only rely on lebron l scoring shut him down they crumble

    Heat=2 championships
    Spurs=4 championships
    Go spurs go!!

  34. SPURS71 says:

    LOLakers….Typical Sour Grapes From Laker Fan….See what all the Glitz, Glamour and Greed got you…..4-Game Sweep In The First Round – GO SPURS GO!!!!!

  35. mpouxesas says:

    You lost all (not that you had much) credibility with this LOL….

    • A curious fellow says:

      I bet that is why all people on this comment thread except you agree with the article

  36. mattchew says:

    tim duncan is 4 games away to retire as the best to finish the game!!!!

  37. Lalo says:

    Its nice to see the Spurs organization being appreciated for what it is. People have always overlooked them because they don’t do the flashy stuff, but they do win and they know how to do that very well. I really hope that they can get one more title with this core group of Parker, Ginobli, and Duncan.
    Go Spurs Go!!!

  38. deep says:

    If the spurs win the finals, tim duncan will have won a championship in 3 different decades.

  39. LOLakers says:

    Celebrate while you have the chance! The Sperms will get swept in the Finals by the Heat!!! They should buy some Ben Gay and Depends!!!! LOL!!! Once the Heat comes to San Antonio they will crumble like the fossils they are!!! LOL!!!!

    • Lalo says:

      Don’t under estimate the Spurs, they are a very solid team that almost beat Miami’s starters with their bench this year.

      • Neil Young says:

        ^ church

      • mark says:

        Thats funny that you mention it considering the heat DID beat the spurs full strength fighting okc for the top west seed mind you while lebron and wade rested and only had bosh playing so what about it?

      • 34yr fan says:

        …..in that game in SA , you are right, Miami DID play one of the big 3 –Bosh– And he won the game…..Conversely…the Spurs in the game in Miami sat 4 players—-the big 3 and Danny Green. Furthermore…… Manu did NOT play in the SA game……and the Heat won by a whole 2 pts. with ANOTHER 3-pointer in the end by Bosh who had an outstanding game shooting the ball….so Bosh is a big and if the Spurs had played Tim in Miami it MIGHT have turned out differently……PS: Pop was interested in just keeping his players healthy in the last week or so of the regular season …..so 1st or 2nd seed made no difference for him….it was all about being healthy for the playoffs ……AND this was the 1st of yet another back to back in April for the Spurs as they traveled to Memphis to get beat the next night …….just sayin…..

    • Loki says:

      Comments like that are the reason the heat bandwagoners need to be humbled. Immature, stupid comments like that make me hopeful the fear of God will be instilled in you imbeciles. Swept? Sperms? Really, what are you 12? Why don’t you grow up before popping in.

      • NZ_NBAfan says:

        Thank you Loki, I’d like to think commenters on this blog actually understand what basketball is about. Not just some cheap, brainless bandwagoners that can’t understand why LBJ doesn’t just reverse-windmill-backflip dunk it every time he gets the ball.

    • Kike says:

      Are you a biologist, a mom, or a archaeologist? in other words; what the hell are you talking about?

    • TRU*NBAFAN says:

      You worry about your drama queen, the Lakers, leave real basketball to them son.

    • 34yr fan says:

      disrespectful punk…..grow up…..and why don’t you go look at the Spurs roster and find out just how OLD they are???? Nevermind… I will save you the trouble and time….Spurs starters average age is:…. ready for this ??? 29.0—-Heat starters average age is: 29.8 SOOOOOO who is OLD???? It gets even better….Total team average for Spurs is 28.5 and the Heat???? 31.3…… Youngest starter for the Spurs is 22 and for the Heat it is 27……..SO………….again I ask you ????…. WHO is old???? I’m thinking it looks pretty even as far as AGE goes between the Spurs and the Heat…..BUT , then again, the Heat are NOT in the Finals….only the Eastern Conference Finals ……. and they are having a harder time than the Spurs did in their side of the Conference Finals. PS: IF the Heat are LUCKY enough to beat the Pacers……you had better be worrying about game one in Miami……NOT when the Heat get to SA….. Miami might already be back on their heels by then !!!

      • Jack says:

        GO SPURS! The heat are such a bandwagon team. You’re not even a team. Just a bunch of prima donna’s who decided that they’ll never win anything being team leaders themselves so they teamed up. At that point they become losers forever.

    • CW says:

      LA gangbanger punk……You should have stayed in school

    • flyboy d-money says:

      The sperms? u gay as hell for even thinkin of that one bra

    • 34yr fan says:

      lolAKERS…..you are childish with your sophomoric name calling and such…if you can add a divide you can find out the heaters are OLDER than the Spurs—starting lineup AND as a team……with the Spurs having the Youngest starter……go fin out that EVERYBODY that says the Spurs are ‘too old’ don’t really Know and have Never taken the time to do their OWN research……but the ‘false’ info STILL persists……tells yo a little about ‘perception’ ……don’t ya think…..the #’s I ran are on another blog……no need to do it again

  40. Mack Major says:

    The spurs are the New England Patriots of the NBA, Popovich=Belichik and Duncan=Tom Brady

  41. Russell Eastbrook says:

    And this is the most important run they made out of all. Not because they are older and people have counted them out, but because they’ve finally made above average nba fans LIKE them. Not accept them or appreciate how good they are, but actually like them for the basketball they play and the dominance which they display. I was a big Dirk fan back in the way,yet I want the Spurs to knock out Miami as much as I wanted Dallas to get their ring. The Spurs are better shooters, better bigs, run better offense, have a better bench and a much better coach. Literally the only Heat advantage is Lebron and what they get from him on the court. Let’s see a Game 7 in the finals again

    • Loki says:

      I personally want a sweep again but I know that’s not happening. Game 7 would be fun for edge of your seat suspense but long as spurs walk away with the trophy I don’t care how they do it

  42. ivom89 says:

    Thanks for acknowledging, Mr. Smith. 🙂

  43. luis says:

    why the spurs are NBA’s dynasty today? best international scouting. period.