There comes a point in almost every championship dynasty when the team starts to disintegrate. From the inside out, the shots begin to miss, personalities begin to clash and players begin to leave. The early 2000s Lakers endured the constant bickering between stars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal before the big man was traded to Miami and the franchise slipped into temporary dormancy. The 2008 championship Celtics squad battled expectations and age before Ray Allen left for Miami and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett soon followed suit to Brooklyn.
So where does this point of separation come with the San Antonio Spurs? Historically speaking, that split should have been in 2011. The squad finished the season 61-21. They were the No. 1 seeded team in the west. Instead, the Spurs became only the fourth No. 1 seed in history to be upset by an eighth seed. Most teams hit the panic button. Following the Lakers’ 2011 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher, two staples of the championship team, were traded and Lakers fans know the rest of the downward-spiraling story.
But the Spurs are different. Instead of possibly trading an ailing Manu Ginobili, the franchise stayed composed. Under Gregg Popovich, they stuck to their system: team play, the right way. The following season, they picked up Riverside native Kawhi Leonard, revived Boris Diaw’s career and continued to chug forward. By the time 2013 rolled around, the Spurs were in prime form. Never mind Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili were a combined 103 years old — the franchise stuck to their guns and returned to the NBA Finals to face the Miami Heat. And in game six, the team was up five points with 28 seconds remaining. The championship trophy was being wheeled to center court. And you know the rest. Ray Allen nailed a last-second jumper and the Spurs went on to lose the game and series, 4-3.
So the band is broken up, right? Wrong. Just like the Rolling Stones, Duncan and company never seem to stop even if the wrinkles start to emerge. The squad is the No. 1 seed once again and faces a depleted Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals before possibly squaring off against the strong but untested Miami Heat from the east. There comes a point in almost every championship dynasty where the wheels start to come apart, but for the San Antonio Spurs, I predict the team celebrates its fifth championship while never having to worry about a reunion tour. The NBA community will be reminded once more of the band that, despite their struggles, were never dismembered.