When I was a child I thought as a child and—consumed in my own limiting rooting interests, before the bright light of liberation shone upon me—boy did I hate the San Antonio Spurs. I mean who didn’t hate them. I know I am not alone in having spent many a fine spring evening absorbed in a temper tantrum, outraged that these black-clad men had just so boringly steamrolled my team. Ah but now, in these early stages of adulthood, this palette has slowly broadened and matured and—in developments that would shock and appall the younger me—I do things like voluntarily eat salads, view Oscar-nominated movies, and appreciate watching the San Antonio Spurs.
We have long been conditioned, in life and in viewing sports, to steel ourselves for impermanence. To soak in each day’s flash of the pan without any significant emotional attachment. So the geologically constant Spurs disorient us; counting them out and then back in is annual tradition. Gregg Popovich’s worst full-season winning percentage is .610, which is a 50-32 season. We don’t even know how to absorb this.
This is certainly true: Tim Duncan, the most important player on the 1999 championship team and also on this 2014 team and on every Spurs incarnation in between, is 37 years old, deep into NBA grandfatherhood. His retirement is, relatively speaking, fast approaching. When Timmy hangs up those laces one last time and goes home and unties his tennies and pours himself out some mineral water, the editorials proclaiming the end of Spurs dominance will be swift and furious. But me I’m excited at the thought of Duncan retiring, of Manu Ginobili’s skills eventually leaving him. The basketball teams that will follow will help us answer a deep and presently unknowable question: was it these singular and irreplaceable talents that made this team great? Or, just maybe, is this front office, and their knack for acquiring just the right player who would help their team, the reason the Spurs have been so great for so long?