It's gonna take decades to look back and realize how impossible the Spurs playoff streak was. For 22 years, the San Antonio Spurs made the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference. Some of it is luck, never having their team decimated like the Warriors are right now. But most of all, it's a testament to their core - Timmy, Tony, and Manu.
When you think of the three Spurs icons, you see them smiling, hugging, and celebrating a title. You know those guys still have a text chain and are in touch. They are family. But, it wasn't guaranteed to turn out like that. When he arrived in San Antonio, Tony Parker had a lot of people to win over - primarily Tim Duncan.
Duncan's leadership is every coaches' dream. Pop said it many times; he got to coach the way he coached because Tim Duncan allowed him to coach that way. When your superstar takes it, everyone else falls in line. It seems Duncan accepted tough love because that's the kind of love he gives as well. It took Duncan a year to start speaking with Tony Parker.
“He didn't talk to me for a whole year. It was kind of weird coming from France, and you have your superstar player that doesn’t talk to you as a point guard; it’s kind of tough, you know? Because you’re supposed to talk to everybody.”
Tony Parker, ESPN
Parker wasn't embellishing for effect. They don't raise division banners in San Antonio - they only count rings. Having a few good games in the regular season means nothing. Parker earned his status when he proved he could hang with the best of them. Think of a player who'd be the toughest test for a rookie point guard, possibly ever. Who did you imagine? That's right.
The first time he talked to me was after I had a good series against Gary Payton and the Seattle Supersonics.
Tony Parker, The Ringer
After that, Duncan started to believe the 28th pick from France might be a 16 game player, and the rest is history. How many rookie point guards do you know would be OK with Tim Duncan not speaking to them for an entire year? Not sulk about it, continue to get better, and earn their respect?
Now, Spurs culture creates an environment that makes such an outcome more likely. Players today ask for trades on a whim, and that's why I'll always have a special tier for the Spurs or Dirk's run in Dallas. You don't bounce at first sight of trouble. You prove your worth against The Glove and win a few rings on one of the best dynasties in NBA history. Thank you, Basketball Gods.