To be a Spurs fan

Posted: April 2, 2013 in Spurs
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Spurs fans are so passionate and loyal to their team; and they have good reason to be.

Brand Keys Inc. ranks Spurs fans as the most loyal in the NBA. (Photo by Nicole Fruge/Express-News file photo)

Brand Keys Inc. ranks Spurs fans as the most loyal in the NBA. (Photo by Nicole Fruge/Express-News file photo)

For the third straight season, the New York-based Brand Keys Inc. have pegged Spurs fans as the most loyal in the NBA.

Bloomberg.com reports the rankings are generated by surveying 250 fans in each team’s market and assessing the data based on factors driven by on-field success, fan bonding with players and the franchise’s history and tradition. A club’s effort and sense of teamwork also can have an effect.

In addition, in ESPN the magazine’s Ultimate Standings, the Spurs were not only labeled as the best franchise in all of sports, they were also labeled number one in their fan satisfaction rankings.

“Our organization has always felt that we have the best fans in sports, and it has always been important to us that the Spurs, as a franchise, deliver the very best for them,” said Spurs’ executive vice president/finance and corporate development Rick Pych. “The results in the Ultimate Standings confirm that we are succeeding in that.”

Added Russ Bookbinder, executive vice president/business operations, “When research like this, conducted by a respected voice in sports, determines that the Spurs are the top franchise in pro sports – that is truly an honor. It’s a testament to the Spurs’ players, coaches, owners, staff and, especially, the San Antonio community.”

I’ve had a twitter for about one year now. I primarily use it when Spurs games are on or just to talk sports in general. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed, it’s that although Spurs fans are a tiny fraction of the total NBA fan base, there are no fans more loyal and passionate about their team than the Spurs faithful.

There’s a simple reason for this: Spurs don’t have any “bandwagon” fans; they’re not the kind of team that people flock to or get excited about when they go on crazy win streaks.

Just about every fan very fan of the Spurs has been around for all the heart breaks and joys the franchise has experienced over the years. Because of this, it makes it that much more enjoyable when they win or that much more painful when they lose. There’s a sense of connection with the team.

Compare this in contrast to, let’s just say, the Miami Heat. Now let’s be honest, Miami may have the largest “fan base” in the NBA now; but that is me using the term “fan” very loosely.

Not many people on this planet cared for the Heat before LeBron James made his decision to “take his talents to South Beach.” And even fewer people cared about the team before Dwyane Wade became a superstar a year or two after he was drafted.

I bring up the Heat because these so-called “fans” claim to be passionate about their team and maybe they are, but when the Heat lose a game or win a championship, no bandwagon fan could ever understand what it’s like to stick by a team through and through and feel the joy of watching your team win it all after all the ups and downs.

“The Heat are my team and I care if they win but Spurs fans be on some other [stuff],” said Kevin Collins, a Heat enthusiast on twitter. “If I get in an argument with a Spurs fan I already know they’re going to come at me in mobs. You say one wrong thing and they have a million stats ready to throw in your face and make you feel stupid.”

It’s too easy to jump from team to team just looking for a likely winner or the hottest pick at the moment. And maybe I’d have a lot fewer disappointments if I lived my sports life that way. But even if I picked correct each year and experienced a championship every time, all of them put together would not compare to the joy I feel even once watching the Spurs win the title.

People on twitter often get confused or flat-out annoyed with Spurs fans. They can’t understand why they take the losses so serious and how it literally ruins people’s days.

“Some people tell me that I get too hype over my team or I take it too serious when they lose,” said Arial Martinez, a lifelong Spurs fan. “I just look at them like ‘duh,’ what am I supposed to do? I love my team. When they lose I feel like I’m losing too.”

My response to the people who think we overdo it is that we don’t expect you to understand. You may get excited when “your team” wins a championship or be mad when they lose; but you’ll never know the feeling of being a legitimate lifelong fan of one team, experiencing the highs and lows of the seasons and constantly sticking by them until they reach the goal; there’s no comparison.

Spurs fans hold up posters supporting their team during the 2011 NBA playoffs(Photo: Jeff McDonald)

Spurs fans hold up posters supporting their team during the 2011 NBA playoffs
(Photo: Jeff McDonald)

So although the Spurs fan base may be limited, “SpursNAtion” are a fraction of you so-called “Heat fans,” I’ll take my limited, but real, fan base of say, 500 people, over the LeBron followers and team hoppers that pose as loyal fans any day.

Tony Parker adds some insight into his thoughts on San Antonio and its fans:

“If our team was in New York and we won three championships in five years (2003, 2005, 2007) then we’d be rock stars. But our fans our so good. I love the city; I love the people here. They’re very passionate about the Spurs. The love that we get here in San Antonio, I wouldn’t exchange it with [anything]. I love it so much that after my career I want to stay here. It sounds crazy to say I want to stay in San Antonio rather than go back to Paris but when you look at it, everybody stays here. Bruce Bowen is still here, David Robinson is still here, Sean Elliott is still here, George Gervin is still here. It’s the environment; I love it in San Antonio.”

I’ll be a die-hard Spurs fan even if there comes a day when they’re going 0-82. I don’t need to switch teams in hopes of winning a championship. I know who my team is and as a fan, I’m here to stay. Lucky for me, that just so happens to be the most passionate fan base in all the NBA and the best run organization as well.

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MVParker?

Posted: March 26, 2013 in Spurs

Tony Parker(Photo: Kevin C. Cox)

Tony Parker
(Photo: Kevin C. Cox)

NBA MVP, an award given to the league’s Most VALUABLE Player. Or is it?

In February, the NBA released their interpretation of MVP candidates on NBA.com’s Race to the MVP Ladder; behind LeBron James, Tony Parker was listed at number 2. And rightfully so, Tony Parker has been tearing through the league, killing the best point guards on National television and the Spurs have the best record in the NBA.

Unfortunately for Parker, an ankle injury obtained on March 1 sidelined him for a month.

I would expect Parker’s spot at number 2 to drop being that he will not be playing for several games. But the NBA wasted NO TIME in dropping Parker all the way off its list. Naturally, this bothered me.

But what got my blood boiling is when the NBA posted this, replacing Parker with Kobe Bryant:

NBA's Facebook account promotes its newest MVP rankings.

NBA’s Facebook account promotes its newest MVP rankings

I thought that these rankings were a misprint. Maybe I was having a flashback to 2008 when the Lakers were actually good. I mean… They wouldn’t put a player whose team was not even in the playoffs and struggling to reach .500 ahead of players like Parker, Durant and Chris Paul, would they?

Of course they did.

Before Kobe fanatics start losing their mind, I acknowledge that he is having a good year. His stats are impressive, but not as impressive as Kevin Durant’s, Tony Parker’s, or Chris Paul’s, whose stats are not only better, but they’re also on winning teams.

Aside from the obvious, here’s my beef: Say roles are reversed, Kobe Bryant plays for the Spurs and Tony Parker is on the Lakers; give Tony Parker’s stats to Kobe and vice versa; the Spurs still have the best record in the NBA and the Lakers are trying to get in the playoffs. There is not a chance in hell that Kobe Bryant would be left off the MVP list and Tony Parker’s struggling team but good stats would have him at number 2.

As I mentioned, the NBA removed Parker from their MVP ladder very shortly after his ankle injury. Well Bryant has been sidelined with his own ankle injury for almost 10 days now and he still sits at number 3 behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

The NBA is not worried about who is most deserving of its accolades; they care about ratings and  boosting sales. People love to talk Kobe or LeBron? So that’s what they’ll get; regardless of who is deserving.

Tony Parker has been amazing this year. So amazing that he has managed to lead the Spurs to the best record while playing only 32 minutes a game, the equivalent of less than three quarters per game.

These are Tony Parker’s per-48-minutes stats (stats based on a player’s average for every 48 minutes played rather than minutes per game) and NBA rank:

  • 31 PPG (7th)
  • 11.1 APG (5th)
  • 53 fg% (1st of any guard in NBA, 2nd highest of any player in top  10 of scoring)
  • 3.02 AST/TO ratio (6th)
  • *Best record in Western Conference*

Here are Kobe Bryant’s per-48-minutes stats:

  • 34.3 PPG (3rd)
  • 7.3 APG (30th)
  • 46.8 FG% (54th, 9th among guards)
  • 1.58 AST/TO ratio (72nd)
  • *Fighting for playoff spot*
A comparison of two of the NBA's élite guards

Parker’s rankings all fall in the top 10 while Kobe’s range from 3rd to 72nd. Add to the fact that Parker’s team has the best record in the league and it becomes unfair.

I don’t need to elaborate much on the Kobe-Parker comparison. Anyone with half a brain can make sense of this.

Tony Parker’s lack of respect of respect around the league may come from the fact that he didn’t play college ball in the states, deciding rather to start his professional career in France. At an early age, Parker was “very close” to signing with UCLA or Georgia Tech. In an article written on yahoo.com, Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich voices his opinion on Parker’s under-the-radar status:

“I’ve often thought that he didn’t have a name here,” Popovich said. “He just came in from Europe. Had he been a college player here and done what he did at 19, he wouldn’t have been the 28th pick for sure. He would have been first, second or third. He would have been high in the draft and would have been talked about here like the kids who were young studs that are just coming out.”

Popovich further elaborates on the season Parker has had:

“With such a long experience of playing so well year after year after year and winning championships, you’d think he’d be in conversations as one of the better point guards in the league,” Popovich said. “It’s funny. It’s taken all these years until now for him to get into these conversations. Name me a point guard who’s had a better season? I can’t think of one. I don’t know who has had a better season than him.”

To add to the statistically great season that Parker is having, the Spurs have the best record in the league. Add on the 2007 NBA Finals MVP, three NBA championships and five all-star selections, and you have the most decorated point guard in basketball. How that résumé flies under the radar, I don’t know.

Tony Parker is the only player in the NBA averaging at least 20 points  and seven assists while shooting better than 50 percent from the field and 80 percent from the free-throw line. Hall-of-famer Larry Bird is the only player to do this for an entire season (1986-87) in the history of the NBA.

Highlights of the Spurs-Clippers game on February 22

In this game against fellow MVP candidate Chris Paul, Parker had 31 points, 7 assists on 12/16 (75%) in only 28 minutes of playing time. Chris Paul, who was being checked by Parker, was held to 4 points, 3 assists and 1/6 shooting (17%) in 27 minutes of play. The Spurs won the game 116-90. These highlights give a good summary of the Spurs season. During the game, Reggie Miller calls Tony Parker the best point guard in the league and says he should be a top candidate for MVP along with LeBron James. Charles Barkley also threw in his opinion and said Parker should win MVP.

The MVP race should be a three-man race of Parker, LeBron and Durant. It’s hard to argue one over any of the others. What the Heat are doing with their win streak is amazing. Kevin Durant has been incredible and his team is once again at the top of the West right behind the Spurs. And Tony Parker is having his best season ever.

Comparing Parker and LeBron, it’s hard to choose, really:

Stats Per 48 Min. Points Assists fg% AST/TO ratio Steals
Tony Parker 31 11.2 54% 3.02 1.4
LeBron James 33.3 9.1 56.50% 2.42 2.1
Per 48 minutes stats for Parker and Lebron obtained on NBA.com

While James edges out Parker by two in points, Parker averages two more assists than James. Two assists is equivalent to at least four points, meaning Parker accounts for at least 53 of his team’s points while LeBron accounts for 51 (the formula for this is (points+(assistsx2)=total contribution). Not to mention how many threes the Spurs shoot that would add to Parker’s contribution even more. They are one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the league; this is often due to Parker’s ability to penetrate, suck in the defense and kick it out to the open shooter. LeBron and Parker both have very impressive FG percentages; but Parker’s is historical. No NBA guard in the history of the game has ever had a percentage as impressive as Parker has maintained his entire career.

With Miami a lock to win the East and the Spurs sitting comfortable at the top of the West, it’s a hard call on who should really get MVP.

We all know, or should know, that LeBron is the best player in the league now; that shouldn’t be debatable. Kevin Durant is a pretty distant second. But the award should not given to the best player in the league, or most popular. If that’s the case then we should go ahead and put LeBron’s or Durant’s name on it for the next seven years and save some time.

MVP stands for Most VALUABLE Player. What player was most valuable to their team’s success?

I strongly believe that was Tony Parker.

Miami’s team is loaded with talent: Wade, Bosh, Ray Allen, Lewis, LeBron, etc. Their streak has been amazing; but that’s not all LeBron James’ doing; Dwyane Wade is currently 4th on the MVP rankings and Miami would likely still be #1 in the (extremely uncompetitive) Eastern Conference even without LeBron.

On the other hand, Tony Parker is playing with a 36-year-old Tim Duncan and a constantly-injured Manu Ginobili. Given, Tim Duncan has been nothing short of amazing this season. But Parker has played over 20 games this season without Manu and/or Duncan. To top that off, not many people outside of the Spurs (limited) fan base can name five players on their roster outside of the big three.

Take Danny Green for example, he was cut by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010 when they were already terrible and recovering from LeBron’s departure. Well he is now the starting shooting guard for the Spurs and flourishing in his role with the team. Green’s role is pretty much a three-point specialist. Danny Green’s evolution from being cut by one of the worst teams in the league to starting on the best can be attributed to the Spurs system/Parker’s ability to get him involved. This is one of many examples that shows why Parker has been the most valuable player to his team this season. He has put them in a position to once again compete for a championship that they would not be in if it wasn’t for him.

Parker has his own thoughts on the MVP race:

“LeBron is the best player in the NBA, by far. But if you want to give it to someone to change it, why not [me]?” Parker said with a laugh. “Charles Barkley had it one year [1992-93] even though M.J. [Michael Jordan] was the best player. Steve Nash got it [twice from 2004-06] even though Kobe [Bryant] was the best player in the NBA. But for me the most important thing is we win. If it [the MVP] happens, it happens. If not, LeBron is unbelievable. But for me, I don’t think about it. It’s not in my hands.”

As deserving as Parker is of the award and under appreciated as he is by fans and the NBA, Tony Parker will not win MVP; so I’ll spare  any further rant. It’s just disappointing to know that the NBA is a joke of a popularity contest rather than a structured association.


For all of the Spurs greatness and consistent dominance, they are not included in conversations with the big boys in New York, LA, Boston, etc. And based on a narrow view of winning, I can’t say that I would disagree.

However, based on an overall analysis of the team’s success, I believe they belong in this conversation just as much as anyone else.

I’d be lying if I said that this was an easy argument to make. I mean… The Yankees, the winningest franchise in all of sports with 27 championships; the Montreal Canadians with 24; the Boston Celtics with 17 and the Lakers have 16. That’s tough company.

But then there’s San Antonio, sitting humble with their four championships. Now I know that four titles alone does not put the Spurs in elite status. But there are other factors that earn the Spurs a spot in this conversation.

Tim Duncan admires his work as he stares at four banners hanging from the AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX.(Photo: Ryan Hurst)

Tim Duncan admires his work as he stares at four banners hanging from the AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX.
(Photo: Ryan Hurst)

The Spurs did not get their start in the NBA until the 1976-77 season; the NBA was founded in 1946. The Lakers and Celtics were there from the start. By the time the Spurs got their start in the NBA, the winningest team in NBA history (in terms of championships), the Boston Celtics, who have won 17 total championships, had already won 13. The Los Angeles Lakers had already won 8 of their 16 championships, too.

Given these circumstances, it’s a bit unfair to compare teams based on total championships.

To add to the disadvantages, in the early stages of the league, when the Celtics and Lakers did most of their damage, there were only eight teams competing. It was not until 1968 that the NBA expanded from 9 to 14 teams. By this time, the Celtics and Lakers had already won 15 of their now total 33 championships. Including the Celtics winning 11 (of their 17) championships in a 13-year span, with 8 in a row from 1959-1966.

LA and Boston bullied their way through the league. LA had players such as George Mikan, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and eventually Kareem Abdul-Jabar, a former MVP who demanded a trade from Milwaukee to either New York or Los Angeles (*cough* big-market power); The Celtics had Bill Russell, Bob Cousy and John Havlicek.

Wilt Chamberlain has seasons where he averaged 50+ points, 73% shooting and 27+ rebounds. Don’t get me wrong, Chamberlain was truly a man among boys. He would be successful in any era; but the talent he played against, or lack of, was a huge advantage for him self and the Lakers. With all due respect to one of the most decorated players in NBA history, Wilt’s competition was average on most nights, at best.

This is not to take away from any of these players; they were obviously great in their era. But the NBA has since expanded to 30 teams and has become much more competitive in the process.

Lastly, the New York Yankees, the winningest team in the history of sports with 27 championships, began playing in 1901; that is a 75-year advantage on the Spurs and just a wee-bit unfair.

To measure all teams equal, a team’s all-time winning percentage seems fair. With all the greatness the big franchises have seen and  great win percentages established through their winning traditions, the Spurs won’t belong with these guys even when we level the playing field, right?

Guess again.

The San Antonio Spurs have the second best all-time win percentage out of all four major North American sports leagues,  winning 61.1% of their games. They are second to only the Los Angeles Lakers who have a win percentage of 61.8%.

In an article labeled The top 5 sports franchises by regular season win percentage on yahoo.com, the author, Patrick Michael, evaluates all four major North American sports leagues to find the five best teams in terms of win percentage. He writes, “of all the winning teams on this list, the San Antonio Spurs were the biggest surprise as I was researching this article. In their [37] NBA seasons, the Spurs have made the playoffs [33] times. Besides consistently winning games, players such as Tim Duncan and David Robinson have represented their franchise well on and off the court.”

I’m sure that most people would be equally surprised to find the Spurs on this list.

The Spurs have been crowned division champs 21 out of their 37 seasons in their ever-competitive Southwest division; this is no easy task in what is typically one of the strongest divisions in basketball. Some mainstay names the Spurs have edged out over the years include Dominique Wilkins, Hakeem Olajuwon,  Clyde Drexler, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Paul and many more.

Spurs fan holds up sign similar to LeBron's trademark Witness slogan.(Photo: Alan Ruhd)

Spurs fan holds up sign similar to LeBron’s trademark Witness slogan.
(Photo: Alan Ruhd)

There is no team in the history of the NBA that holds a winning record against the Spurs. The Los Angeles Lakers, unfortunately, boast the most impressive record against the Spurs with a draw, both teams winning 74 games. Of all the stats and facts I’ve discovered, this one blows me away more than any. It’s not only a winning record the Spurs hold against the rest of the league, it’s domination; most of the records are not even close.

I don’t want to beat this drum any more than I already did in my last post, but, for a small-market team to keep up the level of excellence that the Spurs have had is one of the most amazing accomplishments that any team, in any sport, has ever seen.

The Spurs four championships rank fourth most of all NBA teams. This is a deceiving number for the Spurs, however. Teams like the Chicago Bulls have won six; and that reflects their history well. They have been good enough to win a championship about six times. The Spurs, however, have been legitimate contenders more often than not since joining the NBA. From 1997-present, they have been legit title contenders. While George Gervin’s era was more about establishing the Spurs as a force in the NBA, they had a couple real chances at winning it all. David Robinson had a title-worthy team many years in his era as well.

Unfortunately for the Spurs, injuries, 5-second mental lapses, or being great when the Lakers had the unstoppable combination of Kobe and Shaq, have limited them to just four championships. As stated before, this does not accurately reflect the kind of teams San Antonio has produced. In reality, the Spurs have had championship-capable teams more than 15  of their years.

This is not to make excuses for the team, these types of downfalls are a part of basketball. Trust me, I know that. However, I do say it to show how great the franchise has constantly been and with just a few do-overs, the ring count could easily surpass 10 in San Antonio; they’ve been that good.

Just imagine if Derek Fisher’s 0.4 shot (it absolutely killed me to hyperlink that shot) in the 2004 playoffs never happened. If only we could take back Manu’s crucial bonehead foul on Dirk in the 2006 playoffs. What if OKC’s bigs didn’t inherit Dirk Nowitzki’s jump shot midway through the series in last year’s playoffs? I could go on for days. The Spurs had championship teams many years with some really unfortunate breaks.

For all the success the Spurs have seen over the last 16 seasons with the great combination of Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich, the Spurs winning ways run deeper than 1997 and on. The winning tradition dates all the way back to the “Iceman” George Gervin’s days. The tradition continued to David Robinson’s era and now Tim/Tony/Manu/Pop (yes I threw in Pop. He’s as much a reason for the winning as any player we’ve had.)

The Spurs were once an ABA (American Basketball Association) team located in Dallas and on the verge of extinction before new owners took over and saved the franchise in ’73. The franchise relocated to San Antonio and, along with four others, joined the NBA in ’76. You would think the Spurs needed time to adjust and prepare for such a huge leap to competing with the world’s best. Instead they wasted no time establishing their dominance; in their first seven seasons they won 59% of their games and made the playoffs every year. It took the Spurs only three years to make it to the Western Conference Finals where they took a 3-1 series lead before falling in 7 games to the Washington Bullets.

George "The Iceman" Gervin(Photo: Adam Formal)

George “The Iceman” Gervin
(Photo: Adam Formal)

David Robinson would experience similar success in the ’90s. And some guy named Tim Duncan is doing a pretty good job with the team now, I hear.

Now the truth is, for as great as the Spurs have been since ’76, the great Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich are to credit for most of the accolades and astounding win percentage.

Since drafting Tim Duncan in 1997, the Spurs have won an astounding 71% of their games. s-e-v-e-n-t-y o-n-e. Wrap your minds around that, people. Also, their playoff win percentage in that span is 61%, which is the same percent that has them as the second winningest team in all four sports for regular season games (the competition goes up in the playoffs.)

The Spurs 71% win percentage since drafting Duncan is the best 16-year win percentage in the history of professional sports.

Since 1997, the Spurs have won at least 50 games (out of 82) in all of their seasons except for 1999; this happens to be the lockout season that forced teams to play only 50 games. And by the way, the Spurs (obviously) didn’t get 50 wins, but they did win the NBA championship that year. Since then, the Spurs have won at least 50 games in an NBA record-setting 14 straight seasons. The Spurs have also made the playoffs 23 of the last 24 years.

I can talk Spurs for days and argue even longer about why I feel that they’re the most well-rounded franchise in the history of sports. All of the accomplishments go under the radar because hey, it’s the Spurs. They’re not the flashy New York Yankees or dramatic Miami Heat. But for true basketball fans, not today’s typical half-witted NBA fan, what the Spurs have done is something to marvel at.

Many people say the Spurs will have a long drought after the great Tim Duncan retires. Hey, I’m the biggest Duncan fan and there is no doubt that it will be a major transition. But the winning tradition and good karma that comes with being as humble/respectable an organization as the Spurs are, I feel good about the future in San Antonio.

An altered photo of Kobe Bryant poking fun at the Lakers subpar record. This photo mimics the original picture of Wilt chamberlain holding his sign with "100" in recognition of his 100 point game.

An altered photo of Kobe Bryant poking fun at the Lakers sub par record. This photo is a mimic of the original picture of Wilt chamberlain holding his sign with “100” for his 100-point game.

Teams like the Miami Heat will experience a huge fallout when LeBron James or Dwyane Wade leaves. The Lakers are already experiencing difficulty with an aging team as they struggle to make the playoffs and maintain a .500 record. Obviously they will have their temporary drought (easily fixed by money for them) when Kobe Bryant retires. But the Spurs don’t work the same way these teams do; they know how to set themselves up to withstand these would-be tough years. This is evidenced by their risky, but genius, big moves like acquiring the future of the organization in Kawhi Leonard; their brilliant draft work that brought in Tony Parker with the second-to-last pick of the first round and Manu Ginobili with the 57th pick.

In 2011, the Spurs traded away local favorite, and established point guard, George Hill to get Kawhi Leonard with the 15th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Kawhi had no NBA experience, there was no way to tell if he’d be a solid pro; George Hill was in the process of making a huge name for himself. Much to the chagrin of Spurs fans, they made the move; and now, two years later, Kawhi Leonard has San Antonio buzzing with excitement about the future of the team with Kawhi wearing silver and black.

               Kawhi Leonard shows off his athleticism on a break-away slam against the Portland Trailblazers.

I mention these management moves because it goes to show that these past 37 years have been no fluke. The Spurs are for real and will be a continued force in the NBA for many years to come.

For as many stats that I can throw out there trying to defend the Spurs, the truth is, the Yankees’ 27 championships is awesome. The Celtics’ 17 is cool; I wish I could say that the Spurs had that many championships and I wouldn’t have to write a blog explaining why they belong with the big dogs. At the end of the day, despite very fortunate circumstances, Boston and LA are head and shoulders above the rest of the league in terms of championships; I envy it.

BUT, and that’s a huge “but,” I will take my team any day over any of these powerhouses. It’s an underdog story for San Antonio. The Lakers are expected to win, the Celtics are expected to win, the Yankees… you get the point. The Spurs were four businessmen away from ceasing to exist in the early ’70s.

This makes them something like an orphan to the league; an orphan that started at the bottom of the totem pole and has worked their way into being one of the most admired franchises in all of sports. I, personally, have experienced the bottom in my own way. I like to think I took a similar approach to get where I’m at now; that approach being through honest hard work and staying true to my values and beliefs. No one expects me to be where I’m at and many damn sure doubt that I’ll continue to succeed in the years to come. Sound familiar, Spurs fans? I think many Spurs fans can relate when I say that I identify with the Spurs on so many more levels than just basketball. I love being a Spurs fan.


Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, New York: What do these four cities have in common? Besides being the top four cities with the most sports championships (138 between the four), they are also the top four cities in terms of market size.

Then there is San Antonio, producer of one professional sports team, the small-market San Antonio Spurs. In terms of size, the Spurs market is seventh smallest of all the NBA teams (number 24 out of 30).

So, how does market size affect a team’s ability to produce a winning product? Does it matter at all?

The Spurs four championship banners hang from the rafters at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX.(Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Spurs four championship banners hang from the rafters at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX.
(Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

After looking up a list of past NBA champions, I found that of the 65 NBA championships won, 57 of them have gone to the top 15 teams in terms of market size. This leaves only 8 times a small-market team has won the NBA championship, 4 of those belonging to the Spurs.

Coincidence? I doubt it.

There is a reason the top-four biggest markets are also the top-four winningest cities. Big-market teams offer big-market money and attract big-market players.

Take the New York Yankees: they have won a mind-blowing 27 championships (most in all of professional sports). As amazing an accomplishment as this is, big money in a big market provides a huge competitive advantage.

The Yankees 2010 salary was $213,359,389 (yes that reads 213 million) while small-market teams like the San Diego Padres‘ same-year salary was $37,799,300, a fraction in comparison.

The big-market advantages do not stop there.

When players like Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, LeBron James, etc. enter free agency, it is common knowledge that their possible destinations are narrowed down to the top markets where they can shine and land that next big endorsement deal. No “superstar” wants to play in a small market.

This all seems a little unfair to the small-market teams, doesn’t it? This puts the Spurs at a huge disadvantage and therefore, being the number 24 market in the NBA should mean they can’t compete with the big-market giants, right?

Wrong.

Not many teams in any sport, whether small or big markets, have a winning résumé even close to what the Spurs bolster.

A glance at some of the highlights and acknowledgements in the Spurs prestigious history:

Not a bad list for a team on the bad end of the ever-important market size.

Mark Cuban, owner of the big-market Dallas Mavericks, cradles his money and smiles thinking of his ONE championship.
(photo: mexico365.com)

Despite their success, the Spurs cannot Mark Cuban or Pat Riley their way into greatness by throwing money around and hoping to win championships.

The Spurs have a more structured approach; they do their research. They draft better than any team has ever drafted. And they produce a likable product that keeps the community involved and supportive.

With teams like the Sacramento Kings struggling to keep their franchise afloat and on the brink of relocating Seattle, the effects of being a small-market franchise in a big market-driven league are evident.

Nevertheless, the Spurs make it look easy. Since their inaugural season in 1976, San Antonio has produced a playoff team in 32 of their 37 years in the NBA (this is factoring in that they’re a lock for this year’s playoffs as they hold the #1 seed in the NBA with over 75% of games played.) This is the least amount of playoff misses out of any team in the NBA.

There are three NBA teams with more championships than the San Antonio Spurs: The Lakers, Celtics and Bulls. Coincidentally, these three franchises land at numbers two, three and four  in terms of biggest market size (New York is number one).

I can make a list of names that would run off this page of the great players these franchises have had. Not because their talented management, it’s simply having the money available to do so.

Can we say the same thing about the Spurs former players? Despite all their success and stellar reputation, the Spurs are never even mentioned as a target destination for a high-caliber player looking to move teams.

Yet the Spurs have given the NBA its best 17-year win percentage in the history of the game and get treated like a high school freshman B-team, lucky to get a shout out in the school newspaper.

The brilliance behind the Spurs’ success has been management’s  top-of-the-line money management, timely trades and an unmatched ability to find talent in unconventional places.

There will never be a team like the one the Miami Heat have assembled playing in San Antonio. Taking on those types of contracts is just out of the question for the Spurs.

Instead, they have assembled their own “big three” with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and “Manu” Ginobili.

Tim Duncan is the only lottery pick of those three guys. Tony Parker was the last pick of the first round in the 2001 NBA draft and Manu Ginobili was picked 57th in the 1999 NBA draft (three picks away from going undrafted).

Needless to say, this is a very different approach than, let’s say, the Miami Heat, whose “big three” consists of the number one, four and five picks in the 2003 NBA draft. Or the Los Angeles Lakers, whose 2012-13 payroll is over $100 million and the Spurs’ is under $70 million. Yet, the Spurs own the best record in the NBA (46-14) and the Lakers are struggling for a playoff spot (29-30).

The Spurs organization has become a model of success to not only professional sports teams, but how to run a business in general. They find their strong points (like great scouting) and turn it into such a weapon that on years like this one, it beats even the power of big-market LA money.

Sports Illustrated cover announcing San Antonio Spurs as Most Successful Franchise of the Last 10 Years on June 25, 2012(Photo: Sports Illustrated)

Sports Illustrated cover announcing San Antonio Spurs as Most Successful Franchise of the Last 10 Years on June 25, 2012
(Photo: Sports Illustrated)

In an article written on 48minutesofhell.com, author Timothy Varner discusses the “Spurs way” on the rest of the sports world and how many try to emulate it:

“The Spurs are often quoted as the winningest franchise of all professional sports in the last 10 years,” wrote Varner. “With this kind of success, logical people look to emulate these models in hopes achieving the same kind of results by hiring (stealing) [Spurs staff].

Varner later goes on to discuss how the Spurs the first team to begin valuing character over anything else. They target players that will flourish in the system not only because of their specific skill set but because of their ability to contribute to the locker room.

The Spurs success is attributed to much more than strong recruiting. The organization is built around a community of humble, high-character people with similar goals and values.

I had the privilege of meeting R.C. Buford (Spurs General Manager) last semester in a class at The University of Texas at Austin. Me being the Spurs fanatic that I am, I had about three pages filled with questions I wanted to ask.  One response gave me particular insight into what makes the Spurs business approach unmatched.

Mr. Buford said that when a change is needed, the staff and some key players get together and make a decision as a team. This is not what amazed me, though. What I thought was particularly impressive is that Mr. Buford said “there is no rank” in these meetings. R.C. Buford is nobody’s boss, Gregg Popovich is not the head coach and Tim Duncan is not the face of the franchise. The lowest staff in the room has just as much say as Tony Parker or Tim Duncan.

I was amazed at the selflessness of this approach; some people in that room have every right to think they should have more say than others. But yet, it is truly a team attitude from the basketball court to the front office.

Tim Duncan, widely regarded as the best power forward to ever play the game, has taken numerous pay cuts to help put the team in a better position to succeed.

With leaders like Duncan, an ex-military floor general in coach Gregg Popovich, and a supporting cast that reflects these values, it’s easy to see how the Spurs approach is unlike any other.

In an article written on slate.com, author Matthew Yglesias writes:

“The Spurs’ organization’s top-to-bottom dedication to winning is incredibly stultifying. The star never tries to get the coach fired. There are no contract disputes. Nobody fights about whether it’s still ‘Tim Duncan’s team.’ Nobody’s eager to leave for a flashier city. The face of the franchise is on the last year of his contract and nobody’s speculating about whether or not he’ll come back. No other team even bothers to try to hire away San Antonio’s coach despite his indisputable track record of success … management gets it done.”

Small-market teams struggle to stay competitive in a big-market game. Yet the Spurs have found their own way of maintaining a level of greatness and have done it in ways that still have the big-market teams scratching their heads, only dreaming of emulating it.