7 Ways Gregg Popovich and San Antonio Spurs Changed the NBA
The San Antonio Spurs have become one of the most successful franchises in sports. With a home-grown dynasty, the team is the proud winners of four championships and are currently making a run at their fifth.
However, throughout this dynasty, the Spurs have left a lasting impact on the league as a whole.
Here are seven ways that the San Antonio Spurs have left their mark on the NBA.
Introduced One of the Best Players in History
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"With the first pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs select Tim Duncan from Wake Forest University."
These words spoken by David Stern began what will go down as one of the most illustrious careers in NBA history. At the time, everybody knew Duncan was special. However, nobody knew he was this special.
In the course of his career, Duncan has established himself as the best power forward to ever play the game, as well as one of the best players to ever step foot on the hardwood.
Even his two MVP titles, three Finals MVP titles, 13 All-Star appearances and four rings cannot sum up his career in a manner that would do the Big Fundamental justice.
Players like him don't come around very often, and when they do, words cannot describe how unique they truly are.
The Spurs have been one of the most notable franchises in NBA history, but perhaps no action changed the course of history greater than their drafting of Duncan in 1997.
On any other team he would have been a great player, undoubtedly. However, under any other coach and management, and with any other teammates, there is no guaranteeing that he would have lived up to his full potential.
While he may or may not have been a legend with any other team is a question that will never be answered, but the chips fell in the right place, and San Antonio produced a player that has impacted the league in ways unimaginable.
Introduced One of the Best Coaches in History
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The impact Duncan had on the NBA can largely be credited to one person, Gregg Popovich.
After firing coach Bob Hill, Pop grabbed the reins of the Spurs and didn't look back. Despite a controversial start to his coaching career, he managed to establish himself as one of the best coaches of his era, and of all time.
After being the mastermind behind San Antonio's four championships, he continued to work his magic and produce talented teams under any circumstance.
To go along with his four championship rings, Pop is the proud owner of two Red Auerbach trophies to commemorate his excellence in coaching.
He will go down in history as one of the best coaches to ever take part in the game, right next to Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach and Pat Riley.
Formed a Dynasty
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The San Antonio Spurs should be treated the same way. Since drafting Duncan in 1997, the Spurs have appeared in every postseason and have managed to win at least 50 regular season games, with the exception being the lockout-shortened '98 season.
They have produced four championship rings and are currently en route to a fifth. These actions have found their way into record books that will be preserved for as long as the game is still being played.
Like Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan will go down as a legend, along with his ever-so famous coach.
Their continued success in the league will leave its mark, and have an impact for years to come.
Showed How a Proper Franchise Should Be Run
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Not only have the Spurs been a victorious team for the past decade, but they have done so while setting a good example for rising teams.
Unlike the Miami Heat who went out and formulated their own mini-All-Star roster, the Spurs roster is almost entirely home grown, with each superstar being added via draft.
They managed to create their own historic Big Three, and did so through the draft, with Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker coming in the late first and second rounds.
This is an example that all teams should follow, as it makes for a more enjoyable NBA season, and allows every team to have a chance to develop what could possibly be a contending team.
They managed to steer away from trouble, and left all of their problems on the court, an example that should be followed by new, younger teams.
Some teams, like Oklahoma City have caught the gist, and have created a strong lineup entirely out of the draft. However, others, like the Knicks and Heat, have tried to win their championships via free agency, a move that is not frowned upon, but not respected in the way that a home-grown roster is.
Changed the Value of Foreign Players
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While foreign players were always respected in the league, they never came in the abundance that they do now. Much of the increase of foreign play can be credited to the Spurs' diverse roster, who features players from a handful of countries.
Argentinean stud, Manu Ginobili has evolved into a potential Hall of Famer, and is one of the most recognizable players in the entire league.
Tony Parker, who originates in France, is widely respected as one of the league's best point guards.
However, the foreign talent on the roster doesn't stop after these two stars. Brazilian, Tiago Splitter is slowly developing into a dominant player, with the French, Boris Diaw making a number of contributions to the team.
Even the newly acquired Patty Mills grew up overseas in Australia before coming over to play ball.
The talent goes even farther then their roster however, with a handful of European stars developing overseas right now.
Adam Hanga, Davis Bertans and Erazem Lobek will each have their chance to prove themselves when the time comes as well.
The Spurs have redefined the impact that international players have in the NBA, both with their stars and their stash of overseas talent. After such impressive success stories, this serves as an example which many teams are beginning to follow.
Proved That Age Doesn't Matter
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While this one has come into effect in more recent years, it would be untrue to say that it hasn't impacted the league.
At the beginning of the season, the Spurs were counted out as potential title contenders, with the reason being that they were simply too old.
Now, in the middle of the Conference Finals, the Spurs are one of the four teams left standing, and so far have been the most successful in the playoffs.
The Celtics are in a similar situation. Despite being down 2-0, they put together an impressive late run and found themselves in the Eastern Conference Finals, despite preseason predictions.
These two runs have proved one thing: youth is overrated.
With teams like the Thunder becoming the talk of the league, with their abundance of young talent, many thought that their athleticism and youth would carry them to the Finals.
However, the Spurs are the ones up 2-0, not the Thunder. Experience and other aspects have won out thus far into the series, giving the Spurs the early lead over their younger opponents.
Going forward, people may begin to respect the idea of experience in the playoffs, and younger teams won't simply be considered to be "better."
Showed the League How to Play "Team Basketball"
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When Miami formed an artificial roster, consisting of players that had played the majority of their career elsewhere, teams began experimenting and seeing if they could produce the same success.
The Knicks acquired both Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, but despite their individual success, they mixed together as smoothly as oil and water. Neither were meant to play with each other, which is the main reason for the team's failure this season.
The Clippers tried their hand at this as well, acquiring Chris Paul from the Hornets, and trying to pair him with Blake Griffin. While the two certainly developed more chemistry than the Knicks' duo, their current status shows that this experiment is overrated.
Despite piecing together talent, the Clippers were embarrassed in the second round when they were swept by the Spurs.
In San Antonio, they are using a different strategy to be successful. Only one player on their entire roster was a lottery pick—Tim Duncan—with the rest all being drafted in the late first round or second round.
Even their two other stars fell into their laps late into the draft, with Parker being selected late first, and Manu falling all the way to the final picks of the second.
With this crew, they played a different style of basketball. Not one that relies only on one player's production, but one that combines the efforts of the entire team.
On any given night, a different player can take over, but much of that dominance can be credited to the entire team's effort in order to get him open in the first place.
The Spurs showed fans of this decade the proper way to play basketball, one without tricks and gimmicks. They play as a team, and in the end, that was how basketball was supposed to be played in the first place.