Sports fandom roots itself in community, and nothing can top the experience of a championship celebration in a team's home city. Hard-luck franchises often find catharsis in bringing home a long-awaited title, but fans of the San Antonio Spurs do not know that feeling.
By shellacking LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals, the Spurs inked the franchise name on a list of dominant dynasties, marking a fifth championship in 15 years. More impressively: Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich have been around for all of them, and they don't seem ready to stop dominating the league anytime soon.
That pair not only got one for the thumb, they avenged a stunning collapse against Miami in Game 6 of last season's NBA Finals. The series-sealing win in Game 5 this year brought as many sighs of relief as exclamations of joy.
After a couple of days to reflect on the full measure of their impressive accomplishment, the Spurs will regale fans with a much-deserved victory parade through town. Here is what fans can expect, both at the parade and for the franchise going forward.
When: Wednesday, June 18
Where: River parade begins at 6 p.m. (Central Time) from San Antonio's Arneson River Theater. The Alamodome ceremony begins at 9 p.m.
TV: Multiple local affiliates will broadcast the river parade and ceremony.
Celebrate Good Times
Cause for celebration abounds for the Spurs, as this is not merely one more championship. Tim Duncan played stellar ball this season and through the playoffs at age 38 to claim a fifth title along with coach Gregg Popovich, who entered rarefied coaching air with the victory. International legends Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker each claimed their fourth rings as well.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, with Duncan and Pop winning their first title in 1999, no coach-player combination saw such a long span between first and most recent titles. Duncan also joined John Salley as the second player to get a championship in three different decades.
Popovich became only the fifth coach in history to win five titles, along with Phil Jackson (11), Red Auerbach (nine), Pat Riley (five) and John Kundla (five).
Moreover, the Spurs completely dominated the two-time defending champs from Miami who had outlasted them a year ago. Through the five games, San Antonio enjoyed a total point differential of plus-14, breaking an NBA Finals record that had stood since 1965. The Spurs also posted 118.5 points per 100 possessions and a 60.4 effective field-goal percentage in the series, both records in the three-point era.
A big reason for the Spurs' romp over Miami came with the stellar two-way play of Kawhi Leonard in the final three games of the series, all Spurs wins. He promises a bright future for the team, but the veterans aren't hanging it up just yet.
After an incredible season that demonstrated the overarching efficiency of Popovich's system as well as the sneaky depth and quality throughout the Spurs' rotation, questions about the future loom. Despite his prowess on the sidelines, the 65-year-old Popovich looked harried during the series. Duncan is 38, Ginobili 36. Even Parker has a lot of miles on his body through international play despite being only 32 years old.
While all signs point to the Core Four returning next season for San Antonio, the temptation to go out on top exists for the veterans, with age as a compounding factor.
When asked whether a team this talented would be difficult to walk away from, Duncan outsmarted the question, via Sean Deveney of Sporting News, saying: “Yeah, I am guessing you’re leading me into a question I am not going to answer. So I am going to go ahead and avoid that one.”
Then again, after Duncan played exceedingly well all season, there seems little reason to retire based solely on the quality he produced.
Tim Duncan cannot retire playing at this incredible level. Don't see it happening.— Tas Melas (@TasMelas) June 16, 2014
If Pop or any of the Spurs' Big Three retires, it would be tantamount to robbing the NBA of a chance to continue watching one of the greatest teams of all time.
Cruising to a Victory (Parade)
This isn't your average get-on-an-open-top-bus-and-drive-slowly-down-the-avenue victory parade. The Spurs are taking the city by sea!
According to the press release on NBA.com:
The river parade will begin at 6 p.m. at the Arneson River Theater, travel through the River Center extension past the Convention Center and Rivercenter Mall and end at the Navarro Street Bridge. Barges will carry Spurs players and coaches, Spurs officials, former Spurs players, City and Bexar County officials, live musical entertainers and others down the San Antonio River.
For those average fans lacking access to the barge, spots on the River Walk can be claimed after 4 p.m. CT. Credentials are required to access Arneson River Theater.
And don't expect to smuggle a sneaky drink onto the River Walk. In fact, make sure you leave your shopping and packages at home as well: "Due to security precautions, no ice chests, alcoholic beverages, glass containers, chairs, shopping bags, packages, Silly String or similar items will be allowed."
Should Tim Duncan retire while still at the top of his game?
For fans wishing to be inside the arena for the evening ceremony, no tickets are required to enter the Alamodome, and entry begins at 4:30 p.m.
Some fans already soaked up the local revelry after the Spurs clinched yet another championship with a convincing victory in Game 5.
As 23-year-old Joseph Gonzales told Benjamin Olivo from MySanAntonio.com while he sat in a downtown sports bar: “I was 17 in '07, and that's why I came downtown to experience it. I see it on TV every year—when we won, they park on the highway and go crazy. And I just want to experience that.”
Gonzales and scores more Spurs fans can experience yet another celebration on Wednesday, but they can also bask in the glow of the franchise's sustained dominance for many years to come.