The Spurs are one of four former American Basketball Association teams (along with the Nets, Pacers, and Nuggets) to remain intact in the NBA after the 1976 merger and is the only former ABA team to have won an NBA championship, which they have done four times. As of July 2008, the Spurs rank third among active franchises for the highest winning percentage in NBA history. With the 2007 sweep, the Spurs have the highest winning percentage in NBA Finals history. They have only missed the playoffs 4 times as an NBA franchise.
In their 32 NBA seasons, since 1976–1977, the Spurs have captured 15 division titles, which gives the Spurs the most division titles in the NBA during that 32-year span (the Lakers are second with 14). Among the four major U.S. sports, the Atlanta Braves and the New York Yankees are the only other teams with 15 divisional titles during the last 32 years.
In part because of this community involvement, Spurs fans have been among the most loyal in the NBA. The Spurs set several NBA attendance records while playing at the Alamodome, including the largest crowd ever for a NBA Finals game in 1999, and the Spurs continue to sell out the smaller, more intimate AT&T Center (formerly SBC Center) on a regular basis. The Spurs' rallying cry of "Go Spurs, Go!" has endeared itself to the city of San Antonio, and the phrase pops up all over the city as the season progresses into the playoffs and the Spurs inch closer to a possible title.
San Antonio has also garnered praise for the way its citizens celebrate Spurs championships. When the Spurs win a title, San Antonians jam up the streets downtown, march around waving flags, throw confetti and honk car horns until dawn, but with little incidence of crime. The team floats down the San Antonio Riverwalk on boats where fans can view their champions.
A unique part of every Spurs season comes in February when the team is forced into an extended road-trip due to the occupation of its arena by the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. This is informally known as the "Rodeo Road Trip," and a time that typically starts the Spurs' run to the playoffs; indeed, starting in 1999 the Spurs have consistently posted phenomenal road records during this period, including an NBA-record the longest single road trip winning streak (8 games, achieved in 2003).
As of the 2007–2008 season, the Spurs have one of the highest winning percentages of any professional team, in any sport, since the turn of the millennium.
The San Antonio Spurs started out as the Dallas Chaparrals of the original version of the American Basketball Association (ABA) in 1967. Led by Player/Coach Cliff Hagan the Dallas Chaparrals were one of 11 teams to take the floor in the inaugural season of the upstart ABA. The Chaps second season was a bit of a disappointment, as the team finished in 4th place with a mediocre 41–37 record. In the playoffs the Chaparrals quickly fell to the New Orleans Buccaneers. The team suffered from poor attendance and general disinterest in Dallas. In fact, during the 1970-71 season, the name "Dallas" was dropped in favor of "Texas" and an attempt was made to make the team a regional one, playing games in Fort Worth, Texas, at the Tarrant County Coliseum, as well as Lubbock, Texas, at the Lubbock Municipal Coliseum, but this proved a failure and the team returned full-time to Dallas in time for the 1971-72 season, splitting their games at Moody Coliseum and Dallas Convention Center Arena.
After missing the playoffs for the first time in their existence in the 1972-73 season, the team was put up for sale. The team was acquired by a group of 36 San Antonio business men, led by Angelo Drossos and Red McCombs who actually leased the team from the original Dallas ownership group, relocated the team to San Antonio, Texas and renamed them the Gunslingers. However, before they even played a game the name was changed to Spurs. The team's primary colors were changed from the red, white, and blue of the Chaparrals to the now familiar silver and black motif of the Spurs.
In the first game at the HemisFair Arena the Spurs would lose to the San Diego Conquistadors, despite attracting a noisy crowd of 6,000 fans. A smothering defense was the team's image, as they held opponents less than 100 points an ABA record 49 times. The early Spurs were led by ABA veteran James Silas, and the team would get stronger as the season went on as they twice took advantage of the Virginia Squires, acquiring Swen Nater, who would go on to win Rookie of the Year, in November, and "The Iceman" George Gervin in January. The ABA tried to halt the Gervin deal, claiming it was detrimental to the league, but a judge would rule in the Spurs' favor, and Gervin made his Spurs debut on February 7. The Spurs would go on to finish with a 45-39 record, good for 3rd place in the Western Division. In the playoffs, the Spurs would battle the Indiana Pacers to the bitter end before falling in 7 games. Following the season, the ownership decided to complete the purchase and to keep the team in San Antonio permanently.
The team quickly made themselves at home at San Antonio's HemisFair Arena, playing to increasingly large and raucous crowds. Despite a respectable 17-10 start during the 1974-75 season, Coach Tom Nissalke was fired as owners become tired of the Spurs' slow defensive style of games. He would be replaced by Bob Bass, who stated that the Spurs would have an entirely new playing style: "It is my belief that you cannot throw a set offense at another professional team for 48 minutes. You've got to let them play some schoolyard basketball." George Gervin and James Silas took that style to heart, as the Spurs became an exciting fast breaking team on the way to a solid 51-33 record, good enough for 2nd place in the West. Gervin: "Our whole theory was that you shoot 100 times, we'll shoot 107." However, in the playoffs the Spurs would fall to the Indiana Pacers in 6 games.
Even though playoff success would elude the team, the Spurs had suddenly found themselves among the top teams in the ABA. In 1976, the ABA folded, threatening the future of San Antonio's sole professional sports franchise. The NBA, however, decided to admit four ABA teams into the league, with the Spurs being one of them, along with the Denver Nuggets, the Indiana Pacers and the New York Nets.
The Spurs and the other three ABA teams agreed to pay the owners of two other strong ABA teams that folded instead of joining the NBA. John Y. Brown, Jr., the owner of the Kentucky Colonels, received $3 million, which he used to purchase the NBA's Buffalo Braves and later the Boston Celtics, after selling star guard Louie Dampier to the Spurs. The owners of the Spirits of St. Louis received a portion of all television profits during their NBA tenure, whicih amounts to roughly 1/7th of the Spurs' television profit every year. This agreement has placed particular financial pressure on the Spurs and the other three former ABA teams.
During the 1977-78 season, George Gervin and David Thompson of the Denver Nuggets battled all season for the NBA scoring title. On the final day of the season, Thompson took the lead by scoring 73 points in an afternoon game against the Detroit Pistons. That night Gervin knew that he needed 58 points against the Jazz in New Orleans. Gervin got off to a good start by scoring 20 points in the 1st Quarter. In the 2nd, The Iceman was even better, setting a single period record with 33 points. Early on in the 3rd period Gervin scored his 58 points on the way to 63 capturing the scoring title. While Gervin was lighting up the scoreboard the Spurs were winning the Central Division with a 52-30 record. However, in the playoffs the Spurs would be stunned in 6 games by the Washington Bullets despite an outstanding series from Gervin who averaged 33.2 ppg. The following season in the 1979 Conference Finals the Spurs led the series 3-1 but the Bullets came back to win the last 3 games and came from behind to win the 7th game 107-105 handing the Spurs an absolute heartbreaking loss. The Spurs would have to wait another 20 years to make it to their first NBA finals.
The Spurs would go on to capture 5 division titles in their first 7 years in the NBA and became a perennial playoff participant. However, in the playoffs, the Spurs would never find a break, losing to teams like the Washington Bullets, the Boston Celtics, the Houston Rockets, and the Los Angeles Lakers.
As the 80s progressed, the Spurs would see their shares of highs and lows. For the first few seasons of the decade, the Spurs continued their success of the 1970s with records of 52–30 in 1980-81, 48–34 in 1981-82, and 53–29 in 1982-83. Despite their regular season success, the Spurs were unable to win any NBA championships, losing in the Western Conference playoffs to the Houston Rockets in the first round of the 1981 and the Los Angeles Lakers in in 4 games 1982 and in 6 games in the 1983 Western Finals despite getting both wins at the Forum in the 1983 series. They lost every home game in both series in 1982 and 1983 vs the Lakers as Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and co were too strong. The Spurs didn't make the conference finals until 1995.
After the 1984-85 season, Gervin, who arguably had been the Spurs' biggest star, was traded to the Chicago Bulls in what effectively signaled the end of the era that began when the Spurs first moved to San Antonio.
Although the 1988-89 season was the second-worst in Spurs history at 21–61, it was notable for several reasons. It was the first season of full ownership for Red McCombs, who was an original investor in the team and helped solidify local ownership for the team. Additionally, the 1988–89 season featured the debut of Larry Brown as the Spurs head coach who moved to San Antonio after winning the NCAA National Championship with the University of Kansas in 1988.
The Spurs began the 1990s with great optimism. The team became a perennial playoff presence, although unable to advance further than the second round of the NBA Playoffs under Brown's tutelage. Late in the 1991-92 season, McCombs fired Brown and replaced him with Bob Bass who finished the season as interim head coach. Without a healthy David Robinson, the Spurs were swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the Phoenix Suns. McCombs made national headlines during the summer of 1992 with the hiring of former UNLV head coach Jerry Tarkanian. The Tarkanian experiment proved a flop, as the coach was fired 20 games into the 1992-93 season with the Spurs record at 9–11. After Rex Hughes filled the coaching shoes for one game, NBA veteran John Lucas was named head coach. It was Lucas's first NBA coaching assignment although he had gained recognition in league circles for his success in helping NBA players rehab from drug abuse.
The Lucas era started out successfully. His coaching propelled the team to a 39–22 finish over the rest of the regular season, and the team reached the Western Conference semi-finals, losing to the Phoenix Suns. The 1992-93 season also marked the last that the Spurs would play in HemisFair Arena. In 1993, local businessman Peter M. Holt and a group of 22 investors purchased the Spurs from Red McCombs for $75 million.
The following season, the Spurs first in the newly built Alamodome, Lucas led the Spurs to a 55–27 record but the team suffered a loss in the first round of the playoffs to the Utah Jazz, which led to the immediate firing of Lucas as head coach. Prior to the season the Spurs traded fan-favorite Elliott to the Detroit Pistons in return for rebounding star Dennis Rodman.
Lucas was replaced by former Pacers coach Bob Hill for the 1994-95 season, which would turn out to be the Spurs' most successful regular season until 2006. Elliott returned to the team after an uneventful season with the Pistons, and the team finished with the NBA's best record at 62–20. David Robinson was named the league's Most Valuable Player. The Spurs reached the Western Conference Finals, but lost to the eventual NBA Champion Houston Rockets 4–2. After the pregame MVP award ceremony honoring David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon dominated the game, outscoring Robinson 42–22 in a narrow 1 point Rockets win. The Spurs lost Game 2 at home but took Games 3 and 4 in Houston. Game 5 of the series was highlighted by the famous Dream Shake move by Hakeem Olajuwon in Game 5 at the Alamodome the Spurs lost 113–95 in front of 35,000 fans and lost the series in Houston in Game 6. Throughout the season, and particularly in the playoffs, there appeared to be friction developing between Rodman and several Spurs' teammates, most notably Robinson, and Rodman was traded after the season to the Chicago Bulls who would win the next 3 titles.
The Spurs finished the next season (1995-96) under Hill at 59–23 and lost in the Western Conference semi-finals to the Jazz. Few observers could have predicted how far the Spurs would fall during the 1996-97 season. An injury limited Robinson to just six games during the season, and Elliott also missed more than half the season due to injury. The Spurs ended the season with a 20–62 record, the worst in franchise history. Hill only lasted 18 games as coach that season, eventually being fired and replaced by Spurs General Manager Gregg Popovich, who had also served a stint under Brown as an assistant coach.
Although the 1996-97 season was not successful on the court for the Spurs, the offseason proved to be the opposite. With the third-worst record in the league, the Spurs won the NBA's draft lottery, which gave them the top pick in the 1997 draft. The Spurs used their pick to select Wake Forest University product and consensus All-American Tim Duncan.
With a healthy Robinson and Duncan and the additions of playoff veterans such as Mario Elie and Jerome Kersey, the Spurs looked forward to the 1998-99 season. Prior to the beginning of training camps, however, the NBA owners, led by commissioner David Stern, locked out the players in order to force a new collective bargaining agreement with the NBA Players Association (NBAPA). The season was delayed over three months until resolution on a new labor agreement was reached in January 1999.
Playing a shortened 50-game season, the Spurs ended up with a 37–13 record. The team was just as dominant in the playoffs, rolling through the Western Conference with a record of 11–1. They faced the New York Knicks in the NBA Finals and, on June 25, 1999, won the series and the franchise's first NBA Championship in Game 5 (final score: 78–77) on the Knicks' home court, Madison Square Garden. Duncan was named the Finals MVP. The victory by the Spurs was not only the first NBA title to be won by a former ABA team, but also was the first Finals appearance by a team from the ABA. The Spurs also set a new NBA Finals one-game attendance record when 39,554 fans attended Game 2. The previous record was set only two days earlier, when 39,514 spectators attended Game 1.
Coming off their first NBA Championship the Spurs were still among the best teams in the West and battling for first place in the Midwest Division during the 1999-2000 season. On March 14th the Spurs playoff spirits got a lift when Sean Elliott, who received a kidney transplant prior to the season, returned and played in the last 19 games. As the season wound down Tim Duncan would suffer a knee injury and the Spurs finished in second place with a 53–29 record. Without Duncan, the Spurs would be knocked out of the playoffs by the Phoenix Suns in four games. The long-term viability of the Spurs franchise in San Antonio was, however, achieved during the 1999-2000 season, as Bexar County voters approved increases on car rental and hotel taxes which would allow for the construction of a new arena near the Freeman Coliseum.
The Spurs finished with 58–24 records for both the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons but found themselves suffering playoff ousters in both seasons from the eventual NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers getting swept from the 2001 Conference Finals and the 2002 Second Round.
Entering the 2002-03 season, the team knew it would be memorable for at least two reasons, as David Robinson announced that it would be his last in the NBA and the Spurs would begin play at their new arena, the SBC Center, named after telecommunications giant SBC, whose corporate headquarters are located in San Antonio (SBC became AT&T after its acquisition of its former parent company). To mark this occasion, the Spurs revamped their "Fiesta" logo and reverted to the familiar silver and black motif (though, during the time of the Fiesta logo, the uniform remained silver and black).
This version of the Spurs was very different from the team that had won the title a few years earlier. Second-year French star Tony Parker, drafted by the Spurs in the first round of the 2001 NBA Draft, was now the starting point guard for the Spurs. The squad featured a variety of newly acquired three-point shooters, including Stephen Jackson, Danny Ferry, Bruce Bowen, Steve Kerr, Steve Smith and Argentina product Manu Ginóbili, a 1999 second-round draft choice playing in his first NBA season. Mixing the inside presences of Duncan and Robinson with the newer outside threats, the Spurs earned a 60–22 record. In the playoffs, the Spurs defeated the Suns, Lakers and Dallas Mavericks en route to facing the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals. The series against the Nets marked the first time two former ABA teams would play each other for the NBA Championship. The Spurs won the series 4–2, giving them their second NBA Championship in franchise history. Duncan was named both the NBA Regular Season and Finals MVP for the season. Robinson would retire after this season.
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In the 2003-04 season, coming off their second NBA Championship, the Spurs, playing with 9 new players, struggled early as they missed the presence of David Robinson while the new players struggled to fit in, as they held a 9-10 record on December 3rd. However, the Spurs would turn it around, as they ended December on 13-game winning streak and quickly climbed back to the top of the NBA standings. The Spurs would battle all year for the top spot in the Western Conference, as they ended the season on another strong note winning their final 11 games. However, they would fall 1 game short of a division title and the best record in the West, posting a record of 57-25. In the playoffs, the Spurs remained hot as they swept the Memphis Grizzlies in 4 straight games. In the second round, the Spurs found themselves in another showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers. The Spurs' winning streak would continue as they captured the first two games at home, bringing their winning streak from the end of the regular season up to 17 games. However, as the series shifted to Los Angeles, the Spurs would suddenly have trouble finding the basket, as they lost both games as the Lakers evened the series. The series was playing out similarly to the match-up between the two teams a year earlier. In Game 5 at the SBC Center, Tim Duncan seemingly delivered the Spurs a 73-72 win as he gave the Spurs a lead with a dramatic shot with just 0.4 seconds remaining. However, the Lakers' Derek Fisher would launch a game-winner as time expired which would go in, giving the Lakers a stunning 74-73 win to take a 3-2 series lead. The Spurs protested the shot, arguing that the clock started late, which the Spurs claimed was why replays showed Fisher got off the shot in time. An AP report and the three officials in attendance stated that replays showed the shot was released by Fisher before time expired. The officials, however, could not consider the Spurs' claim that the clock did not start immediately when the ball was inbounded. After the stunning loss, the Spurs traveled to Los Angeles for Game 6, where they lost the game and the series. The Spurs spent the following offseason tweaking the team.
With a 97-91 opening-night victory on November 2 at Dallas, Gregg Popovich became the fourth head coach in North American professional sports history to post 10 straight opening night victories (others are: Tom Landry, Bill Fitch and George Allen). The Spurs got off to a strong start in the regular season, winning 11 of their first 14 games, including victories over Dallas, Phoenix and Houston. During that stretch, Tim Duncan became the 98th member of the 15,000-point club at Seattle. However, the Spurs franchise-record 12-game road winning streak came to a halt with a 111-102 loss at Golden State on November 27. With a win against Sacramento on December 2, 2006, the Spurs moved past the Celtics to become the second winningest franchise in NBA history (based on winning percentage) at .595. But as the season unfolded, the Spurs failed to live up to their lofty expectations. Following a 9–7 record in January, the Spurs started February with a 1–3 record. They struggled down the stretch in many of those defeats, and the Spurs quickly found themselves far behind the Dallas Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns. In fact, the Spurs were, during this period, a mere 1.5 games ahead of the third-place Houston Rockets in the Southwest Division. Trade rumors began swirling around the Spurs. Unaccustomed to struggling during the regular season, the Spurs were frustrated. With the trade deadline quickly approaching, Popovich had to choose whether or not to keep the team together. His decision was not to make a trade. Then, it was as if their whole season had magically turned around in one moment. With quiet determination, the Spurs spent the rest of the season flying under the radar, winning thirteen games in a row during February and March. The Spurs won those games with either tough defense or by hitting big shots down the stretch. The Spurs were an NBA-best 25–6 in the final 31 games. During the 31-game stretch, the Spurs averaged 98.8 points while holding their opponents to 87.9 ppg. With that streak, the Spurs began climbing back up in the Western Conference standings. Despite their massive turnaround, the Spurs would not catch the Mavs who won the Southwest Division by nine games. However, with the NBA's top ranked defense and a 58–24 record, the Spurs entered the postseason in good shape.
When the bell rang for the second season, they were able to put the Denver Nuggets away in five games. While the Spurs were bouncing the Nuggets, the Mavericks, who had an NBA best 67–15 record in the regular season, were unraveling, losing to the Golden State Warriors in six games. The Mavericks' upset loss set the Spurs second-round series against the Phoenix Suns as the key series in the entire NBA Playoffs, as some even called it the "real NBA Finals". The Spurs went on to win 4–2 in the very contentious and controversial series versus the Suns. Those who said the second-round series against the Suns was the true NBA Finals would be proven right, as the Spurs easily dispatched the Utah Jazz in five games to reach the NBA Finals. In the 2007 NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs swept the Cleveland Cavaliers and captured their fourth title in nine years and became a dynasty. For the first time for San Antonio someone other than Tim Duncan won the NBA Finals MVP. The award was won by Tony Parker who dominated in the Finals averaging 24.5 ppg on 57% shooting. Tony Parker became the first European-born player to win the Finals MVP. Just before the 2007 NBA Draft, the Spurs purchased the Austin Toros of the NBA Development League, becoming the second NBA team to purchase an NBADL team. This move made the Spurs the sole NBA affiliate of the Toros and gave them greater control over the management of the team, including coaching and the offensive and defensive schemes.
Despite the setback in 2008, the Spurs appear poised to contend for NBA titles for the next few seasons. With Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili all under contract until at least 2010, the Spurs have a solid foundation to build championship contending team around.
San Antonio Spurs
|Years Active||Name||Record (W-L)||Winning Percentage|| Playoff Record |
|Postseason Percentage||Playoff Appearances||Division Titles||Conference Titles||NBA Championships||Current Status|
|19961–present||Gregg Popovich||576-276||.676||92-52||.639||10||6||4||4||Head Coach, Spurs|
|1994–961||Bob Hill||124-58||.681||14-11||.560||2||2||0||0||Fired by Seattle SuperSonics, April 2007|
|19922–94||John Lucas||94-49||.657||6-8||.429||2||0||0||0||Retired from coaching|
|19922||Jerry Tarkanian||9-11||.450||N/A||N/A||0||0||0||0||Retired from Fresno State in 2002|
|19923||Bob Bass||26-18||.591||0-3||.000||1||0||0||0||Retired as GM of New Orleans Hornets in 2004|
|1988–923||Larry Brown||153-131||.539||7-7||.500||2||2||0||0||Head Coach, Charlotte Bobcats|
|1986–88||Bob Weiss||59-105||.360||0-3||.000||1||0||0||0||Fired by Seattle SuperSonics, January 2006|
|19834–84||Bob Bass||26-25||.510||N/A||N/A||0||0||0||0||Retired as GM of New Orleans Hornets in 2004|
|19834||Morris McHone||11-20||.355||N/A||N/A||0||0||0||0||Head Coach, Sioux Falls Skyforce|
|1980–83||Stan Albeck||153-93||.622||13-14||.481||3||3||0||0||Partially paralyzed by stroke in 2001|
|19805||Bob Bass||8-8||.500||1-2||.333||1||0||0||0||Retired as GM of New Orleans Hornets in 2004|
|1976–805||Doug Moe||177-135||.567||9-13||.409||3||2||0||0||Assistant Coach, Denver Nuggets|
1During the 1996–97 season, Bob Hill coached 18 regular season games. Hill was fired on December 10, 1996, and Gregg Popovich coached the remaining 64 regular season games.
2During the 1992–93 season, Jerry Tarkanian coached 20 regular season games. Tarkanian was fired on December 18, 1992. Rex Hughes then coached one regular season game, and John Lucas coached the remaining 61 regular season games as well as the playoffs.
3During the 1991–92 season, Larry Brown coached 38 regular season games. Brown was fired on January 21, 1992, and Bob Bass coached the remaining 44 regular season games as well as the playoffs.
4During the 1983–84 season, Morris McHone coached 31 regular season games. McHone was fired on December 28, 1983, and Bob Bass coached the remaining 51 regular season games.
5During the 1979–80 season, Doug Moe coached 66 regular season games. Moe was fired on March 1, 1980, and Bob Bass coached the remaining 16 regular season games as well as the playoffs.