It was right there for the taking. Kawhi Leonard missed a free throw. Manu Ginobili committed a turnover instead of setting up the offense. Gregg Popovich sat Duncan on the bench for a defensive possession allowing Chris Bosh to come up with a big offensive rebound. If any one of those things didn’t happen in the final minutes of Game Six of this past NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs would have won their fifth championship in the Tim Duncan era.
Tim Duncan came into the League in 1997 after four years at Wake Forest and by 1999, had led the Spurs to their first ever NBA championship. That year, they beat the New York Knicks, who were an exciting and flashy team in complete contrast to the Spurs boring hum-drum style. Tim Duncan was dubbed “The Big Fundamental” because his game was so fundamentally sound. He’s wasn’t banging it on you, crossing you over or looking for the alley-oop from his teammates. Instead, he was hitting his little turn-around jumper off glass at a devastatingly high percentage. Boring, but effective.
The Spurs went on to win titles in 2003, 2005 and 2007 making them arguably one of the greatest franchises of all time. But the Spurs have an image problem. Not winning back-to-back titles allows people to forget how recently they’ve won. It also makes them seem less dominant since so many other teams were able to slip in and win a title. However, prior to this current Miami Heat team, none of those teams that won recently were able to win more than one. While the Heat actually have three championships, the ring they got in 2006 was won by a completely different team than the one they have on the floor now. In ’06 Shaquille O’Neal was at center, Jason “White Chocolate” Williams was the point guard and Gary Payton was coming off the bench.
Meanwhile, the Spurs have essentially brought the same team to the floor for the entirety of their championship stretch.
As the Heat won their second title in the LeBron era, the Spurs seemed to let it get away. Some may even say they choked since they were ahead for the entire series until the end and should have won it in Game Six and could have won it in Game Seven. Losing to the flashy, media savvy, Heat team somehow seems to have garnered more attention than all four of the Spurs’ championship series wins put together. Hopefully, choking in the 2013 Finals against the Heat won’t become Tim Duncan’s legacy because despite his four NBA titles, three Finals MVPs, and two regular season MVPs over the course of his career, missed layups, turnovers and missed free throws is all NBA fans seem to remember about these Spurs.