With five NBA titles in 15 years, the Spurs are a dynasty


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The Minneapolis Lakers won five titles in six seasons from 1949 to 1954 with a one-two punch of George Mikan, a transcendent star, and Coach John Kundla. Then the Boston Celtics ruled, winning 11 titles in 13 years with Bill Russell on the court and Red Auerbach (and then Russell himself as a player-coach) behind the bench. The Lakers would dominate the 1980s with championships in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988 yet Showtime would eventually give way to the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls, who would have two three-peats: 1991-93 and 1996-1998.

But that was all before free agency and salary caps.

The Lakers would rise again, however, winning three in a row from 2000 to 2002 and back-to-back in 2009 and 2010.

Minneapolis, Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago are all worthy of the label “NBA dynasty.” And so are the Spurs. How else do you classify a 950-396 record over 17 seasons? Or a stretch of 16 50-victory seasons with the lone season — the lockout-shortened 1998-99 campaign — having a 61-win pace over an 82 games.

Not so fast says Phil Jackson, who won 13 championships during his career: two as a player and 11 as coach of the Bulls and Lakers.

I wouldn’t call San Antonio a dynasty — a force, a great force. They haven’t been able to win consecutive championships but they’ve always been there. San Antonio has had a wonderful run through Tim’s tenure there as a player.

Let’s call it Dynasty 2.0, and it has a lot to do with Tim Duncan’s arrival in San Antonio.

The Spurs now have five championships – 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014 – since Duncan was selected first overall in the 1997 NBA draft and have never missed the playoffs over that span.

And they have been dominating during that stretch, especially in net points per 100 possessions in the regular season.

The Spurs have also played some stellar defense in the postseason en route to their championships, including keeping opponents to three of the top five lowest opposing field-goal percentages.

Tim Duncan has not only led the team in postseason win shares, an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player, he has led the league since he was drafted. That includes having a higher impact in the playoffs than LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, the former trying to build a dynasty and the latter part of one.

But the Spurs are more than Duncan, who along with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili earned their 117th playoff win together, seven more than the Los Angeles Lakers trio of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Michael Cooper. And now they have 22-year-old Kawhi Leonard, who became the third youngest player to be voted the NBA Finals most valuable player.

Leonard is the reason the Spurs are chasing championships again. He changed everything for the Spurs. He gave them size and strength and athleticism to partner with his calculating, cunning basketball mind. Eventually, he gave them a startling offensive game to go with his stifling defense. Against Oklahoma City and Miami, he gave them a defender for Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Yes, Kawhi Leonard gave the Spurs a chance again.

“Just a great team and we do it together,” Parker said after Game 5.

A dynasty isn’t just consecutive championships, it is also “a powerful group that maintains its position for a considerable time.” San Antonio’s 950 wins and five championships certainly qualifies.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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