Written By: Jameson White
This past week, speculation has arisen that San Antonio Spurs superstar, Kawhi Leonard, may want to leave the Alamo city, with sources stating that he has been “disconnected” from his team. This kind of action seems to be unheard of, as nearly every star that has donned the silver and black has loved the organization.
Most players would kill for a chance to play for the most consistent NBA franchise of the last nearly quarter of a century. It seems unlikely that the quiet superstar in Kawhi would leave the franchise, but it does raise a question; what exactly has made San Antonio so special for the last twenty years?
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The Big Fundamental. When talking about the dynasty that is the San Antonio Spurs, it has to begin with the drafting of Timothy Theodore Duncan. From the moment he was taken with the first overall pick in the 1997 draft, he made the Spurs instant contenders. He teamed up with future NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson to give San Antonio the best frontcourt in the league. The duo earned the nickname of being “The Twin Towers,” as two of the best rim protectors in NBA history were now together to bully opponents both offensively and defensively.
San Antonio won its first NBA title in 1999, in Duncan’s second season. The Spurs kept up their dominance throughout the 2000’s and 2010’s, as Tim Duncan brought five titles to the city in his 19-year career.
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Continuity. The continuity with the Spurs over the last twenty years has been remarkable. They have the longest-tenured head coach in the NBA with Gregg Popovich. They had been able to rely on Hall of Fame talent that have spent their entire careers there, such as the aforementioned Tim Duncan and David Robinson, along with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
In the modern-era NBA, players join and leave teams on a seemingly regular basis. Even the best players in the game, Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George,Kyrie Irving, as well as countless others, have played on multiple teams throughout their respective careers; continuity is a rare commodity.
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Unselfishness. With the previously stated continuity, comes extreme unselfishness from players. Multiple stars in San Antonio have taken millions of dollars in pay cuts for the betterment of the team, as they have valued winning over money and withheld from displaying a “me first” mentality; another rarity in the sports world today.
Players have understood and thrived off of the respective roles that have been placed upon them by Gregg Popovich, understanding that the extra pass can often time lead to an open 3-point shot, rather than a lightly contested mid-range jumper.
Winning over everything. It seems like no matter what, San Antonio finds a way to contend. There is a high level of respect between the franchise and its players, and although players show loyalty, sometimes the doing-what-is-best-for-the-team approach costs a Spur or two.
In 2011, the Spurs traded fan-favorite George Hill to the Indiana Pacers for the rights of the 15th overall pick, Kawhi Leonard. Players like Manu Ginobili were, at the time, infuriated by the move, as the continuity of the players had led to many friendships; however, Kawhi Leonard has since become a Finals MVP, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and perennial near-lock for an All-Star or All-NBA selection.
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Although part of Kawhi Leonard’s so-called “frustration” with the franchise is not attracting big name free agents to join the team, that has never been the “Spurs way.” San Antonio has a niche for being able to draft and groom talent themselves, not go and throw money at free agents. Whether or not Kawhi actually is thinking about leaving the Spurs is only a question that he can answer. However, with or without Leonard, something extraordinary has been in San Antonio, and it has kept them contenders for the last twenty years.