The San Antonio Spurs are just a single win away from cementing the legacy of their Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. They have the opportunity to extend their dynasty with a fifth title in 15 seasons against the Miami Heat.
That’s a title once every three seasons, and yes, that’s absurd.
Headed to Miami in search of a win in either Game 6 or 7 is no simple task, and there is still one more momentous effort needed to capture that next championship, but a victory gives the Spurs a spot among basketball royalty.
The dynasty will always be remembered for its Big Three:
There’s no doubt that Duncan has piloted these Spurs' glory years.
In 1999, his second year in the NBA, he won his first title alongside David Robinson and was named the finals MVP. He went on to win a total of three finals MVP awards, also earning the honor in the Spurs' 2003 championship season and again in the 2005 title run. Winning a fifth title at 37 years old, still as a primary star, pushes Duncan even further into the conversation of all-time greats.
Compared to contemporary legends Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, Duncan’s list of achievements can be argued as greater. Bryant and O’Neal may have the marketability, but Duncan has the greater resume.
Should the Spurs win, Duncan will tie Bryant with five titles and move past O’Neal’s four. Duncan has three finals MVPs, tied with O’Neal and ahead of Bryant’s two. He has two regular-season MVP awards, more than both O’Neal and Bryant.
The greatest power forward of all time has already created his place among legends, but ending his run with a fifth title gives him credentials greater than any superstar of this generation.
Parker only earns credit this time of year.
It’s in the postseason when he reminds the league of his blazing quickness, magician finishes and unheralded toughness as a point guard who attacks the basket.
He is often overlooked in the regular season, as evidenced by just five All-Star games in his 12 seasons of averaging 17.1 points on 49.4 percent shooting and 6.0 assists.
However, he does his damage in the playoffs. In the postseason, Parker has been the Spurs point guard for three championships, and he entered this year’s playoffs having played 152 games in which he averaged 18.9 points and 5.1 assists. So far, he is averaging 21.2 points on 47.9 percent shooting and 7.1 assists.
He’s the best player on the floor for San Antonio, and if the Spurs win, he could be in line for a second finals MVP, unless of course, that honor goes to Danny Green.
Parker will be remembered as one of the great point guards because of his significant role in the Spurs’ dynasty.
And don't forget, he just turned 31 years old. He could play at a high level for several more years.
Will there be a sixth man from this generation remembered with more reverence than Ginobili?
Ginobili can be a head-scratcher at times, an erratic scorer who catches fire just as quickly as he goes cold. He’s the perfect fuel-inducing guard off the bench, though, and he has played as a reserve in 87 of his 136 postseason games entering this year's playoffs. In that stretch over nine seasons, he has averaged 16.2 points and 3.8 assists.
Ginobili has struggled this postseason, shooting 39.2 percent for 11.3 points per game. But he'll be remembered for performances such as in Game 5 when he started and scored 24 points and tallied 10 assists.
However, it hasn't been the number of shots he's made as much as it's been his contributions in the biggest moments.
Players aren’t remembered in the postseason for their statistics (just ask Robert Horry), and Ginobili is going to be treasured for the clutch shots he's made in his three championships with San Antonio.
Ginobili's career could have been thought of differently had he entered the NBA at an earlier age. He played in Argentina from 1995-1998 and in Italy from 1998-2002. That's conceivably seven missed seasons of NBA action.
If the Spurs go on to claim a fourth title with Ginobili and he carries them through the big moments—as he did in Game 5—he will forever be endeared as a vital part of of San Antonio’s Big Three.
And if the 35-year-old goes on to retire after an additional title, the image of his legacy will forever be ingrained for his share of hoisting championship trophies.
The Legacy of the Trio
The Spurs’ Game 5 win acted as a microcosm of what the Big Three has done for so long.
Ginobili jump-started the offense, Parker controlled the Spurs' pace and scored efficiently and Duncan continued to making mid-range shots while rebounding and defending the paint.
It’s an ideal core for a championship team.
The Spurs superstars position themselves as role players, yet their only role seems to win with a dominance that no franchise other than the Los Angeles Lakers has experienced since Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls.
Under Gregg Popovich, the trio of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili have flourished. They share the basketball and execute with a sharpness and tradition otherwise unseen throughout the NBA.
San Antonio has its own way of doing things, and its Big Three continues to perpetuate the winning basketball-first formula that has now attached itself to youngsters like Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard.
With all the superteams being schemed throughout the league, San Antonio's chemistry and team-first disposition remains constant.
None of that happens if Duncan, Parker and Ginobili don't buy into the program. They act as an example of what can be accomplished through loyalty and patience—both in terms of choosing to stay in San Antonio and through on-court decision-making.
The Spurs need just one more win. If they accomplish that, this trio will certainly go down as the greatest Big Three of a generation.