The Spurs are the city's only team in any of the four major U.S. professional sports leagues and the only major-league team in the city's history to have lasted more than five years. Spurs players are active members of the San Antonio community, and many former Spurs are still active in San Antonio including David Robinson with the Carver Academy and George Gervin with the George Gervin Youth Center.
The Spurs set several NBA attendance records while playing at the Alamodome including the largest crowd ever for a NBA Finals game in 1999, and the Spurs continue to sell out the smaller AT&T Center (formerly SBC Center) on a regular basis.
Since 2003, the team has been forced on an extended road trip for much of February since the AT&T Center hosts the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. This is informally known as the "Rodeo Road Trip". The Spurs have consistently posted winning road records during this period, including an NBA-record longest single road trip winning streak (eight games out of nine, achieved in 2003).
When the Spurs have won the NBA title, the team's victory parades have been boat trips on the San Antonio River Walk.
The San Antonio Spurs started out as the Dallas Chaparrals of the original version of the American Basketball Association (ABA). Coached by player/coach Cliff Hagan the Dallas Chaparrals were one of 11 teams to take the floor in the inaugural season of the upstart ABA. The Chaps second season was a bit of a disappointment, as the team finished in 4th place with a mediocre 41–37 record. In the playoffs the Chaparrals quickly fell to the New Orleans Buccaneers.
The team suffered from poor attendance and general disinterest in Dallas. In fact, during the 1970–71 season, the name "Dallas" was dropped in favor of "Texas" and an attempt was made to make the team a regional one, playing games in Fort Worth, Texas, at the Tarrant County Convention Center, as well as Lubbock, Texas, at the Lubbock Municipal Coliseum, but this proved a failure and the team returned full-time to Dallas in time for the 1971–72 season, splitting their games at Moody Coliseum and Dallas Convention Center Arena.
While the Chaparrals had been modestly successful on the court, they were sinking financially by their third season, largely because the ownership group refused to spend much money on the team. After missing the playoffs for the first time in their existence in the 1972–73 season, nearly all of the owners wanted out. A group of 36 San Antonio businessmen, led by Manager/Angelo Drossos, Chairman of the Board/John Schaefer and President/Red McCombs, worked out a "lend-lease" deal with the Dallas ownership group. Drossos and his group would lease the team for three years and move it to San Antonio, and agreed to return the team to Dallas if no purchase occurred by 1975.
After the deal was signed, the team was renamed the San Antonio Gunslingers. However, before they even played a game the name was changed to Spurs. The team's primary colors were changed from the red, white, and blue of the Chaparrals to the now familiar black, silver and white motif of the Spurs.
In the first game at the HemisFair Arena the Spurs lost to the San Diego Conquistadors, despite attracting a noisy crowd of 6,000 fans. A smothering defense was the team's image, as they held opponents less than 100 points an ABA record 49 times. The early Spurs were led by ABA veteran James Silas, and the team would get stronger as the season went on as they twice took advantage of the Virginia Squires, acquiring Swen Nater, who would go on to win Rookie of the Year, in November, and "The Iceman" George Gervin in January. The ABA tried to halt the Gervin deal, claiming it was detrimental to the league, but a judge would rule in the Spurs' favor, and Gervin made his Spurs debut on February 7. The Spurs would go on to finish with a 45–39 record, good for 3rd place in the Western Division.
In the playoffs, the Spurs would battle the Indiana Pacers to the bitter end before falling in seven games. San Antonio embraced the Spurs with open arms; the Spurs drew 6,303 fans per game, surpassing the Chaparrals' entire total attendance in only 18 games. Schaefer, Drossos and McCombs knew a runaway hit when they saw it. After only one year, they exercised their option to tear up the lease agreement, buy the franchise outright and keep the team in San Antonio for good.
The team quickly made themselves at home at HemisFair Arena, playing to increasingly large and raucous crowds. Despite a respectable 17–10 start during the 1974–75 season, Coach Tom Nissalke was fired as owners become tired of the Spurs' slow defensive style of games. He would be replaced by Bob Bass, who stated that the Spurs would have an entirely new playing style: "It is my belief that you cannot throw a set offense at another professional team for 48 minutes. You've got to let them play some schoolyard basketball." George Gervin and James Silas took that style to heart, as the Spurs became an exciting fast breaking team on the way to a solid 51–33 record, good enough for second place in the West. Gervin said, "Our whole theory was that you shoot 100 times, we'll shoot 107." However, in the playoffs the Spurs would fall to the Indiana Pacers in six games.
Even though playoff success would elude the team, the Spurs had suddenly found themselves among the top teams in the ABA. Moreover, their gaudy attendance figures made them very attractive to the NBA, despite the size of the market. Although San Antonio had over 650,000 people at the time (and has since grown to become the seventh-largest city in the United States), it has always been a medium-sized market because the surrounding suburban and rural areas aren't much larger than the city itself. In June 1976, the ABA–NBA merger took place, moving San Antonio's sole professional sports franchise into a new league. The Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and New York Nets moved to the NBA for the 1976–77 season.
The Spurs and the other three ABA teams agreed to pay the owners of two other strong ABA teams that folded instead of joining the NBA. John Y. Brown, Jr., the owner of the Kentucky Colonels, received $3 million, which he used to purchase the NBA's Buffalo Braves and later the Boston Celtics, after selling star guard Louie Dampier to the Spurs. The owners of the Spirits of St. Louis received a portion of all television profits during their NBA tenure, which amounted to roughly 1/7 of the Spurs' television profit every year. This agreement placed particular financial pressure on the Spurs and the other three former ABA teams. In 2014, the Spirits' owners reached agreement with the NBA to end the perpetual payments and take a lump sum of $500 million instead.
Although there was some initial skepticism in league circles regarding the potential success and talent levels of the incoming ABA teams, the Spurs would prove worthy of NBA inclusion during the 1976–77 season with a record of 44–38, good for a tie for fourth place overall in the Eastern Conference. This was done in spite of significant handicaps the NBA imposed on the incoming ABA teams, limiting their draft picks and television revenues during their early time in the merged league. They gained a new rival in the form of the Houston Rockets, who had played in Texas for five years prior to the merger.
During the 1977–78 season, George Gervin and David Thompson of the Denver Nuggets battled all season for the NBA scoring title. On the final day of the season, Thompson took the lead by scoring 73 points in an afternoon game against the Detroit Pistons. That night Gervin knew that he needed 58 points against the Jazz in New Orleans. Gervin got off to a good start by scoring 20 points in the 1st quarter. In the 2nd, The Iceman was even better, setting a single period record with 33 points. Early on in the 3rd period Gervin scored his 58 points on the way to 63 capturing the scoring title. While Gervin was lighting up the scoreboard the Spurs were winning the Central Division with a 52–30 record.
However, in the playoffs the Spurs would be stunned in six games by the Washington Bullets despite an outstanding series from Gervin who averaged 33.2 ppg. The following season in the 1979 Conference Finals the Spurs led the series 3–1 but the Bullets came back to win the last three games and came from behind to win the 7th game 107–105 handing the Spurs a heartbreaking loss. The Spurs would have to wait another 20 years to make it to their first NBA finals.
The Spurs would go on to capture five division titles in their first seven years in the NBA and became a perennial playoff participant. However, in the playoffs, the Spurs would never find a break, losing to teams like the Washington Bullets, the Boston Celtics, the Houston Rockets, and the Los Angeles Lakers.
As the 1980s progressed, the Spurs would see their shares of highs and lows. For the first few seasons of the decade, the Spurs continued their success of the 1970s with records of 52–30 in 1980–81, 48–34 in 1981–82, and 53–29 in 1982–83 (it was during this period that the Spurs were moved to the Western Conference).
Despite their regular season success, the Spurs were unable to win any NBA championships, losing in the Western Conference playoffs to the Houston Rockets in the first round of the 1981 and the Los Angeles Lakers in four games 1982 and in six games in the 1983 Western Finals despite getting both wins at the Forum in the 1983 series. They lost every home game in both series in 1982 and 1983 vs the Lakers as Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and co. were too strong. The Spurs did not make the conference finals until 1995.
After the 1984–85 season, Gervin, who had been the Spurs' biggest star, was traded to the Chicago Bulls in what effectively signaled the end of the era that began when the Spurs first moved to San Antonio.
The next four seasons were a dark time in Spurs' history with the team having a combined record of 115–213 from 1985–86 until 1988–89. The losing seasons and dwindling attendance often caused the Spurs to be mentioned as a potential candidate for relocation to another city.
The lone bright spot during this period was the Spurs being awarded the top pick in the 1987 NBA draft through NBA Draft Lottery. The Spurs used this selection on United States Naval Academy standout David Robinson. Although drafted in 1987, the Spurs would have to wait until the 1989–90 season to see Robinson actually play, due to a two-year commitment he had to serve with the United States Navy.
The Spurs seemingly bottomed out in 1988–89 with a record of 21–61, the worst in franchise history at the time. However, the 1989–90 season was notable for several reasons. It was the first season of full ownership for Red McCombs, who was an original investor in the team and helped solidify local ownership for the team. Additionally, the 1988–89 season featured the debut of Larry Brown as the Spurs head coach who moved to San Antonio after winning the NCAA National Championship with Kansas in 1988.
Although there was speculation that Robinson might choose not to sign with the Spurs and to become a free agent once his Navy commitment ended, Robinson decided in the end to come to San Antonio for the 1989–90 season.
While it was thought his arrival would make the Spurs respectable again, no one expected what happened in his rookie season. Led by Robinson, 1989 draftee Sean Elliott from Arizona, and trade acquisition Terry Cummings from the Milwaukee Bucks, the Spurs achieved the biggest one-season turnaround in NBA history, finishing with a record of 56–26. They also jumped all the way to first place in the Midwest Division, their first division title in seven years. Robinson had one of the most successful rookie seasons for a center in NBA history, finishing the season as the unanimous Rookie of the Year while averaging 24.3 points and 12.0 rebounds.
The Spurs began the 1990s with great optimism. The team became a perennial playoff presence, although unable to advance further than the second round of the NBA Playoffs under Brown's tutelage. Late in the 1991–92 season, McCombs fired Brown and replaced him with Bob Bass for the remainder of the season. Without a healthy David Robinson, the Spurs were swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the Phoenix Suns.
McCombs made national headlines during the summer of 1992 with the hiring of former UNLV head coach Jerry Tarkanian. The Tarkanian experiment proved a flop, as the coach was fired 20 games into the 1992–93 season with the Spurs record at 9–11. After Rex Hughes filled the coaching shoes for one game, NBA veteran John Lucas was named head coach. It was Lucas' first NBA coaching assignment, although he had gained recognition in league circles for his success in helping NBA players rehab from drug abuse. The Lucas era started out successfully. His coaching propelled the team to a 39–22 finish over the rest of the regular season, and the team reached the Western Conference semi-finals
In 1993, local businessman Peter M. Holt and a group of 22 investors purchased the Spurs from Red McCombs for $75 million. In the 1993–94 season, the Spurs' first in the newly built Alamodome, Lucas led the team to a 55–27 record but the team suffered a loss in the first round of the playoffs, which led to the immediate firing of Lucas as head coach. Prior to the season the Spurs traded fan-favorite Elliott to the Detroit Pistons in return for rebounding star Dennis Rodman.
Lucas was replaced by former Pacers coach Bob Hill for the 1994–95 season. Elliott returned to the team after an uneventful season with the Pistons, and the team finished with the NBA's best record at 62–20, cracking the 60-win mark for the first time in franchise history. Robinson was named the league's Most Valuable Player. The Spurs reached the Western Conference Finals, but lost to the eventual NBA Champion Houston Rockets. Throughout the season, and particularly in the playoffs, there appeared to be friction developing between Rodman and several Spurs' teammates, most notably Robinson. Rodman was traded to the Chicago Bulls after the season, and helped the Bulls win three titles from 1996–1998.
The Spurs finished the 1995–96 season under Hill at 59–23 and lost in the Western Conference semi-finals. Few observers could have predicted how far the Spurs would fall during the 1996–97 season, especially with the signing of Dominique Wilkins. Robinson missed the first month of the season due to a back injury. He returned in December, but played only six games before a broken foot sidelined him for the rest of the season. Elliott also missed more than half the season due to injury. Without Robinson and Elliott, the Spurs were a rudderless team. The lone bright spot was Wilkins, leading the team in scoring with an average of 18.2 ppg. The Spurs ended the season with a 20–62 record, the worst in franchise history—and to date, the last time they have missed the playoffs. Hill only lasted 18 games as coach that season, eventually being fired and replaced by general manager Gregg Popovich, who had also served a stint under Brown as an assistant coach. Wilkins would play his lone season in 1996–97 for San Antonio, knowing his minutes and playing time would greatly diminish next season.
As disastrous as the 1996–97 season was for the Spurs, the offseason proved to be the opposite. With the third-worst record in the league, the Spurs won the NBA's draft lottery, which gave them the top pick in the 1997 draft. The Spurs used their pick to select Wake Forest product and consensus All-American Tim Duncan.
Gregg Popovich watched Tim Duncan play in summer league and immediately noted that, "If I try to coach this guy, the only thing I can do is screw him up", effectively saying that Duncan was very gifted, very intelligent, and had a keen knowledge of the game.
Duncan quickly emerged as a dominant force in the NBA during the 1997–98 season, averaging 21.1 points and 11.9 rebounds per game as a power forward. He was named First Team All-NBA while winning Rookie of the Year honors. The team ended up at 56–26, breaking their own record from 1989–90 for the biggest single-season improvement for wins, but once again lost to the Jazz in the Western Conference semi-finals. While both Duncan and Robinson played low-post roles, the two seamlessly meshed on the court.
With a healthy Robinson and Duncan and the additions of playoff veterans such as Mario Elie and Jerome Kersey, the Spurs looked forward to the 1998–99 season. Prior to the beginning of training camps, however, the NBA owners, led by commissioner David Stern, locked out the players in order to force a new collective bargaining agreement with the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). The season was delayed for over three months until resolution on a new labor agreement was reached in January 1999.
Playing a shortened 50-game season, the Spurs earned an NBA-best 37–13 record (.740 win percentage, and only season since Duncan was drafted the Spurs did not win at least 50 games in a season as of 2016). The team was just as dominant in the playoffs, rolling through the Western Conference with a record of 11–1. In the NBA Finals, they faced the New York Knicks, who had made history by becoming the first eighth seed to ever make the NBA Finals. The Spurs won the series and the franchise's first NBA Championship in Game 5 at the Knicks' home arena, Madison Square Garden. Duncan was named the NBA Finals MVP. The Spurs became the first former ABA team to reach and to win the NBA Finals. They also won the 1999 McDonald's Championship in the off-season and were the last champions of that tournament as it was disbanded right after.
Coming off their first NBA Championship, the Spurs were still among the best teams in the West and battling for first place in the Midwest Division during the 1999–2000 season. On March 14, the Spurs playoff spirits got a lift when Sean Elliott, who received a kidney transplant from his brother prior to the season, returned and played in the last 19 games. As the season wound down, Duncan suffered a knee injury and the Spurs finished in second place with a 53–29 record. Without Duncan, the Spurs were knocked out of the playoffs by the Phoenix Suns in four games.
The long-term viability of the Spurs franchise in San Antonio was, however, achieved during the 1999–2000 season, as Bexar County voters approved increases in car rental and hotel taxes which would allow for the construction of a new arena next to the Freeman Coliseum. The Spurs finished with 58–24 records for both the 2000–01 and 2001–02 seasons but found themselves suffering playoff ousters in both seasons from the eventual NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers, getting swept from the 2001 Conference Finals and losing in five games during the second round in 2002.
Entering the 2002–03 season, the team knew it would be memorable for at least two reasons, as David Robinson announced that it would be his last in the NBA and the Spurs would begin play at their new arena, the SBC Center, named after telecommunications giant SBC, whose corporate headquarters were located in San Antonio (SBC became AT&T after its acquisition of its former parent company). To mark this occasion, the Spurs revamped their "Fiesta Colors" logo and reverted to the familiar silver and black motif (though, during the time of the Fiesta logo, the uniform remained silver and black). This version of the Spurs was very different from the team that had won the title a few years earlier. Second-year French star Tony Parker, drafted by the Spurs in the first round of the 2001 NBA draft, was now the starting point guard for the Spurs. The squad featured a variety of newly acquired three-point shooters, including Stephen Jackson, Danny Ferry, Bruce Bowen, Steve Kerr, Steve Smith and Argentine product Manu Ginóbili, a 1999 second-round draft choice playing in his first NBA season.
The Spurs christened the SBC Center in style on November 1, 2002 by defeating the Toronto Raptors 91–72. The Spurs would not get off to a flying start as they had just a 19–13 record heading into January. In January the Spurs began to gel and seemed prepped to make a run, when they embarked on their annual Rodeo Road Trip, a nine-game road trip from January 25 to February 16. However, it would be hardly a bump in the road for the charging Spurs, who won eight of the nine and began to climb their way to first place. The Spurs went on to erase their seven-game deficit and finished the season in a tie with the Dallas Mavericks for the best record in the NBA (60–22). Thanks to a tiebreaker, the Spurs won their third straight Division title as Tim Duncan claimed his second straight NBA MVP.
In the playoffs, the Spurs defeated the Suns, Lakers and Mavericks en route to facing the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals. The series against the Nets marked the first time two former ABA teams played each other for the NBA Championship. The Spurs won the series 4–2, giving them their second NBA Championship in franchise history. Duncan, after having been named NBA MVP, was also named Finals MVP.
Coming off their second NBA Championship, the retirement of David Robinson left a void in San Antonio's daunting defense, while playoff hero Steve Kerr and veteran forward Danny Ferry also retired. Meanwhile, backup point guard Speedy Claxton was left for the Warriors, and Stephen Jackson left for Atlanta. With several holes to fill in their rotation, the Spurs would make several key signings in the off-season. Rasho Nesterovic and Hedo Türkoğlu were brought in to replace Robinson and Jackson, respectively. What proved to be the most important off-season acquisition would be the signing of veteran Robert Horry.
The Spurs, playing with nine new players, struggled early as they missed the presence of Robinson while the new players struggled to fit in, as they held a 9–10 record on December 3. However, the Spurs would turn it around, as they ended December on a 13-game winning streak and quickly climbed back to the top of the NBA standings. They would battle all year for the top spot in the Western Conference, as they ended the season on another strong note winning their final 11 games. However, they would fall one game short of a division title and the best record in the West, posting a record of 57–25. In the second round of the playoffs, the Spurs found themselves in another showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers. The Spurs would win Games 1 and 2 at home, but drop the next two in the Los Angeles. In Game 5 back in San Antonio, Duncan seemingly delivered the Spurs a 73–72 win as he hit a dramatic shot with just 0.4 seconds remaining. However, the Lakers' Derek Fisher would launch a game-winner as time expired, giving the Lakers a stunning 74–73 win to take a 3–2 series lead. The Spurs would eventually lose the series in six games.
After their disappointing second round collapse, the Spurs looked to regain the NBA crown. With the acquisition of guard Brent Barry from Seattle, the Spurs would get off to a quick start, posting a 12–3 record in November. The Spurs would stay hot through December as they established a 25–6 record entering the New Year. With the later additions of center Nazr Mohammed from New York (acquired in a midseason trade of Malik Rose), and veteran forward Glenn Robinson from free agency, alongside regulars Bruce Bowen, Robert Horry, Tony Parker, Manu Ginóbili, and Tim Duncan, the Spurs would be near the top in the Western Conference all season, battling the Phoenix Suns for the best record in the NBA. Just as it appeared the Spurs would cruise toward the playoffs their season suddenly hit a bump in the road when Tim Duncan suffered an ankle injury. The Spurs struggled the rest of the season, finishing just 59–23. However, by the time the playoffs rolled around, Duncan was ready to return.
In the postseason, The Spurs went through the West relatively easily, culminating with a 5-game victory in the Conference Finals over the Phoenix Suns. In the NBA Finals, the Spurs would face the defending champion Detroit Pistons. The first two games in San Antonio were both Spurs victories as Ginóbili led the way with 26 and 27 points, in blow out wins by the Spurs. However, as the series shifted to Detroit, the Spurs were the ones who were blown out, losing Games 3 and 4 by big margins as the Pistons evened the series. Faced with a third straight loss in Detroit, the Spurs would play tougher in Game 5, which would go into overtime. After going scoreless in the first half, Robert Horry hit a clutch three-point shot with nine seconds remaining to give the Spurs a dramatic 96–95 win. The series moved back to San Antonio for game six, but the Spurs were unable to close out the series, setting up a deciding Game 7. In Game 7, Duncan had 25 points as the Spurs pulled away late to win their third NBA Title in seven years with an 81–74 win. Duncan was named Finals MVP, becoming the fourth player to win the MVP award three times (joining Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, and Michael Jordan).
Coming off their third NBA Championship in seven years, there was a sense that the Spurs were the class of the NBA, and once again would be the team to beat in the NBA for the Championship. For the 2005–06 season, the Spurs acquired the two-time All-Star Michael Finley and one-time All Star Nick Van Exel. Not surprisingly, the Spurs would come flying out of the gate, winning 16 of their first 19 games. Once again, the Spurs would get challenged within their own division by the Dallas Mavericks as they held the two best records in the Western Conference all season, battling for first place. In the end, the experience of the Spurs would be the difference as they won the Southwest Division again with a new franchise best record of 63–19. The Spurs met the Mavericks in the second round of the playoffs, but it would be Dallas coming out on top 4–3, including a 119–111 overtime victory in Game 7.
The Spurs struggled during the first half of the 2006–07 season, which led to discussions of trading away veteran players to build for the future. The team remained intact, and the Spurs would win 13 games in a row during February and March, and were an NBA-best 25–6 in the final 31 games, as the Spurs were able to claim the 3-seed in the West. The Spurs cruised through the first round, while the #1-seeded Dallas Mavericks were upset. This set up a second-round series with the Phoenix Suns as the key series in the entire NBA Playoffs, as this series featured the teams with the two best records remaining in the NBA.
The Spurs went on to win 4–2 in the contentious and controversial series versus the Suns. The series featured a Robert Horry foul on Steve Nash toward the end of Game 4 which resulted in Horry being suspended for two games. Those who said the second-round series against the Suns was the true NBA Finals would be proven right, as the Spurs easily dispatched the Utah Jazz in five games to reach the NBA Finals. In the Finals, the Spurs swept the Cleveland Cavaliers and captured their fourth title in nine years. Tony Parker, who dominated in the Finals averaging 24.5 ppg on 57% shooting, was named Finals MVP and became the first European-born player to win the award.
The 2007–2008 season saw the Spurs go 56–26 and finish 3rd in the Western Conference. The Spurs faced hurdles but would make it to the Western Conference Finals, but lose to the Lakers in five games. The next season would see the Spurs drop off in wins to 54–28 and lose to the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs.
Two days before the 2009 NBA draft, general manager R. C. Buford acted to address the team's age and health concerns by acquiring 29-year-old swingman Richard Jefferson from the Milwaukee Bucks. The Spurs sent 38-year-old Bruce Bowen, 36-year-old Kurt Thomas, and 34-year-old Fabricio Oberto to the Bucks, who swapped Oberto to the Detroit Pistons for Amir Johnson.
The Spurs held three 2nd-round picks in the 2009 draft. Their selection of Pittsburgh Panthers forward DeJuan Blair with the #37 pick was described as a "steal" by analysts; the Spurs later drafted two guards they had been targeting with the No. 37 pick, taking Miami Hurricanes shooting guard Jack McClinton and point/shooting guard Nando de Colo from France with the No. 51 and No. 53 picks, respectively. On July 10, 2009, the Spurs signed Detroit Pistons power forward Antonio McDyess to a three-year deal worth approximately $15 million in guaranteed money.
The Spurs struggled with injuries during the 2009–10 regular season, but managed another 50-win season, finishing at 50–32. The seventh-seeded Spurs would once again battle the Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs. After falling to the Mavericks in Game 1, the Spurs went on to avenge their 2009 defeat to Dallas by winning the series in six games. The Spurs however, were swept out of the playoffs in the following round by the Phoenix Suns.
During the 2010 NBA draft, the Spurs management held the highest draft pick since the Tim Duncan draft a decade earlier. They drafted rookie James Anderson from Oklahoma State at #20. However, Anderson was soon sitting out of the first half of the season due to injuries. In 2010–11, the Spurs finished 61–21 to be the #1 seed, but an injury to Ginóbili in the final regular season game took a toll on the team, and they were upset by the #8 seeded Memphis Grizzlies.
2011 brought a change to the Spurs' philosophy that set the stage for the next successful run in the club's history. Out went the stream of last-legs, wizened veterans that the Spurs had relied on to fill out the rotation behind the Big Three. Minutes went to younger and more athletic talent like Danny Green, Gary Neal, and Tiago Splitter, to whom Popovich would teach The Spurs' Way – a fast pace, unselfish passing, and accountability on defense. The biggest personnel move of the Spurs' off-season had the club sending the beloved guard George Hill to his hometown Indiana Pacers for San Diego State's Kawhi Leonard, a hyper-athletic forward selected #15 overall by the Pacers in the 2011 NBA draft. The team also selected Texas Longhorns' Cory Joseph as the #29 overall pick.
After the lockout that delayed the 2011–2012 season, the Spurs signed T.J. Ford, who would eventually retire in the middle of the season after playing only 14 games due to a stinger. Before the trade deadline, the Spurs decided to part ways with Richard Jefferson and sent him to the Golden State Warriors for Stephen Jackson, who had been a member of the 2003 championship team. Leonard then became the starting small forward. In the week following the trade deadline, the Spurs also signed forward Boris Diaw after his contract was bought out by the Charlotte Bobcats, and former Portland Trail Blazers guard Patrick Mills who played for the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the CBA during the lockout. This gave the Spurs a deeper bench for their playoff run.
Despite the shortened 66-game NBA season due to the NBA lockout, the Spurs won 50 games and tied the Chicago Bulls for the best record in the league. They extended their streak of 50+ win seasons to 13 since the 1999–2000 season, an NBA record. Popovich won his second Coach of the Year.
The Spurs swept the first two rounds of the Playoffs. With those two sweeps, a 10-game win streak to end the season, and wins in Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference Finals, the Spurs would win 20 straight games. However, the Oklahoma City Thunder would end up winning the next four games in the West Finals, to take the series 4–2.
During the 2012 off-season, the Spurs re-signed swingman Danny Green, who was a welcome surprise for them from the previous season, and Tim Duncan, both for three years. The Spurs would have a strong 2012–13 season, going 58–24 and earning the #2 seed in the West.
The Spurs clinched the playoffs for a 16th consecutive season, as well as extended the NBA record with 50+ games for 14 consecutive seasons. On April 16, the Spurs signed two-time scoring champion, and seven-time All-Star Tracy McGrady to help in the playoffs after waiving Stephen Jackson. The Spurs finished the regular season second in the Western Conference behind the Oklahoma City Thunder with a record of 58–24, and swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round, 4–0. In the second round of the 2013 playoffs, the Spurs faced Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. They beat the Warriors four games to two. In the conference finals, the Spurs swept the Memphis Grizzlies, with Tony Parker having an 18-assist performance in Game 2 and a 37-point performance in Game 4. The Spurs would meet the defending champion Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
The Spurs and Heat would alternate wins the first six games in the series. In Game 6, the Spurs were on the verge of winning their fifth NBA title. San Antonio was up five points with 28 seconds to go in regulation. An unlikely and uncharacteristic series of mishaps would doom the Spurs down the stretch, including the benching of Duncan by Popovich at the end of regulation with the Spurs on defense. The Heat missed their field goal attempt, but the undersized Spurs could not grab the defensive rebound. Chris Bosh rebounded the ball and Ray Allen then hit a 3-pointer to tie the game with five seconds left in regulation to send it to overtime, during which the Spurs were defeated 103–100. In Game 7, San Antonio jumped out to a lead early and kept the game close the entire way. Toward the end of the game, however, and despite a 24-point, 12 rebound effort, Duncan failed to convert on two attempts to tie the game: a missed layup and missed tip-in that allowed LeBron James to hit a jumper and increase the Heat's lead to 92–88. After a steal from Ginóbili, James hit two free throws after being fouled by Duncan, and when Ginóbili missed a subsequent 3-pointer, Dwyane Wade hit one out of two from the free throw line to put the game on ice, as the Heat would win their second straight championship.
The Spurs returned with their core roster largely intact, while adding free agents Marco Belinelli and Jeff Ayres (formerly Jeff Pendergraph), while losing Gary Neal to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Spurs clinched the best record in the NBA with 62 wins, which included a franchise record 19 straight wins in February and March. In the first round of the playoffs, the eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks surprised the Spurs by taking the series to 7 games, but the Spurs prevailed in convincing fashion in the deciding Game 7. In the second round, Tim Duncan surpassed Karl Malone for fifth place in NBA Playoffs all-time points scored while the Spurs cruised past the Portland Trail Blazers in 5 games. San Antonio played the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, which marked the third straight appearance in the Western Conference Finals for the Spurs, and defeated them in 6 games to advance to the Finals for a second straight year for a rematch with the Miami Heat. It was also the first time that they had advanced to the Finals in consecutive years. This made it the first time since 1998 NBA Finals that two teams faced off in the Finals in consecutive years. With a victory in the second game of the series, Duncan, Ginóbili, and Parker won more playoff games together than any other three players on the same team in NBA history. The Spurs would go on to win the 2014 NBA Championship, 4 games to 1. The Spurs blew out Miami in all of their wins, each of them by 15 or more points. Kawhi Leonard had a breakout performance and was named NBA Finals MVP for his big game performance and is the third youngest to win it, behind Magic Johnson and teammate Duncan. In the 2014 NBA draft, they selected Kyle Anderson out of UCLA as the 30th overall pick.
During the 2014 offseason, the Spurs made headlines when they announced that they had hired Becky Hammon as an assistant coach, effective with her retirement as a player at the end of the 2014 WNBA season. Hammon became the first full-time female coach in any of the four major U.S. professional leagues.
The 2014–15 season was an up-and-down season, but finishing strong with a 55–27 regular season record and 6th seed in the West, they qualified for the playoffs. They faced the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs. The Spurs went up 3–2 heading into Game 6 at San Antonio. However, the Clippers would win that game and go on to win Game 7 at home. The San Antonio Spurs became the first defending champions since the 2011–12 Dallas Mavericks to be eliminated in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
With the acquisitions of David West and LaMarcus Aldridge during the offseason, the Spurs finished with a 67–15 record, their best winning percentage in franchise history, earning them the Southwest Division title. They also set a franchise record for most wins in a season with 67 and a NBA record for most home wins in a season with 40 (tying the 1985–86 Boston Celtics 40–1 home record). The Spurs also had the league's best defense. During the playoffs they swept the shorthanded Memphis Grizzles in the first round before losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 6 games in the second round. They would become the first team since the 2006–07 Dallas Mavericks to finish with 67 wins and be eliminated before the conference finals.
On July 11, 2016, Duncan announced his retirement from the NBA after 19 seasons with San Antonio.
The rivalry between the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers started in the late 1970s and peaked in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Since 1999, the teams have met in the NBA Playoffs 7 times, with the clubs combining to appear in seven straight NBA Finals from 1999–2005. Additionally, the teams won each NBA Title from 1999–2003 (the Spurs won in 1999 and 2003, while the Lakers won in 2000, 2001, and 2002). From 1999–2004, the rivalry was considered as the NBA's best, as each time the clubs faced each other in the playoffs, the winner advanced to the NBA Finals. The rivalry fell off from 2005–07, with the Lakers missing the playoffs in 2005 and losing in the first round to the Phoenix Suns in 2006 and 2007, but intensified again in 2008 when they met in the Western Conference Finals. Both teams met once again for the 12th time in 2013 in the first round, with the Spurs winning in four games.
The rivalry between the San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks features two teams with Dallas roots. The Spurs began their life in the ABA as the Dallas Chaparrals and did not move to San Antonio until 1973. On October 11, 1980, the Mavs made their NBA debut by defeating the Spurs 103–92. In the playoffs the Spurs defeated the Mavericks in 2001, 2003, 2010, and 2014; while the Mavericks defeated the Spurs in 2006 and 2009. The Spurs have won five championships and six conference titles, while the Mavericks have won one championship and two conference titles. The Spurs have won 18 division titles, while the Mavericks have won 3. The Mavericks have three 60-win seasons, while the Spurs have five.
The two teams met in the playoffs during the 2000–2001 season with the Spurs winning in five games. Little was made during this series, as the Spurs won their first NBA championship only two years before. The Mavericks, run by a trio of Steve Nash, Michael Finley, and Dirk Nowitzki, had just defeated the Utah Jazz, despite not having home court advantage, and were only starting to meld into a title contender.
The rivalry took on a new meaning in 2005 when, near the end of the regular season, Don Nelson resigned as Dallas' head coach, apparently dissatisfied with the state of the team, and handed the coaching reins to former Spur Avery Johnson, the point guard of the 1999 NBA champion Spurs team who hit the game-winning shot against the New York Knicks. Since Johnson was coached under Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich, he would be familiar with most, if not all, of Popovich's coaching style and philosophy. During the 2005 offseason, Michael Finley, waived by the Mavericks under the amnesty clause, joined the Spurs in search for an elusive title victory, that he finally was part of with the Spurs in 2007. Ironically, part of his salary was being paid for by the Mavericks during that season to allow for cap room.
The Mavericks were swept in the 2012–13 season by the Spurs for the first time since the 1998 season, Tim Duncan's rookie season. In their last match up of the season, San Antonio escaped with a 95–94 victory over Dallas when a Vince Carter 3-point attempt bounced off the rim at the buzzer. With that win, the Spurs clinched a playoff spot for a 16th straight season, currently the longest streak in the NBA. San Antonio also reached 50 wins for a 14th consecutive season, the longest streak in NBA history.
In the 2013–14 season, the Spurs once again swept the Mavs in the regular season, giving them nine straight victories. In addition, an overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on April 16, 2014 ensured that the Mavericks would face the Spurs once again in the 2014 NBA Playoffs, where the Mavs would be the eighth seed and San Antonio the first. In Game 1 in San Antonio, the game was relatively close. Dallas managed to reach an 81–71 lead in the fourth quarter, but the Spurs rallied back and took Game 1 at home, 90–85. However, the Mavs managed to force 22 turnovers in Game 2 to rout the Spurs 113–92, splitting the first two games before the series went to Dallas. In Game 3, Manu Ginobili managed to hit a shot that put the Spurs up 108–106 with 1.7 left, but a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Vince Carter gave the Mavs the victory, putting them up 2–1 in the series. The Spurs took Game 4 in Dallas 93–89 and later Game 5 at home 109–103, giving them a 3–2 lead. The Mavs avoided elimination in Game 6 at home by rallying in the fourth quarter, winning 111–113. The Spurs would then advance to the second round with a Game 7 blowout, winning 119–96.
Also known as the I-10 Rivalry since San Antonio and Houston both lie on the path of the Interstate 10 freeway. The rivalry between the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets began in 1976 when the Spurs were absorbed into the NBA from the American Basketball Association, along with the Denver Nuggets, the New York Nets, and the Indiana Pacers. The Rockets and Spurs competed for the division title, with the Rockets winning it first in 1977 and the Spurs in 1978 and 1979. In 1980, they met in the playoffs for the first time as the Rockets led by Moses Malone and Calvin Murphy beat the Spurs led by George Gervin and James Silas 2–1. The rivalry grew intense as both teams moved from the East to the West. They met again in 1981, this time in the second round. The Spurs had home-court advantage, and were heavily favored, winning the Midwest Division Title and the Rockets only 40–42. The Rockets and Spurs fought to the bitter end before the Rockets held on to win Game 7 capped by Murphy's 42 points. The Rockets would advance to the Finals in a losing cause to the Boston Celtics. The rivalry continued in 1995 when the defending champion Rockets led by Hakeem Olajuwon beat the top-seeded Spurs led by MVP David Robinson in the Western Conference Finals, despite only being the sixth seed, with Olajuwon, who had won the previous year's MVP, being widely regarded as having outplayed Robinson. In a regular season game early in the 2005 season, the Spurs were leading the Rockets very late in the 4th quarter by eight points. Houston's Tracy McGrady went on a personal 13–4 run in the final 35 seconds to miraculously steal the game away from San Antonio, including the game winning 3 pointer with one second remaining to the delight of the Toyota Center crowd.
The rivalry between the Spurs and the Phoenix Suns began in the 1990s when the Spurs were led by "The Admiral", David Robinson, and the Suns were propelled by a number of players including Dan Majerle, Kevin Johnson, and Tom Chambers. The rivalry continued into the next decade with Tim Duncan leading the Spurs and with the Suns headed by Steve Nash. In 2003, the Spurs beat the Suns 4–2 in the first round. In 2005, the Spurs beat the Suns 4–1 in the Conference Finals. In 2007, the Spurs beat the Suns 4–2 in a Conference Semi-finals series that was notable for putting the two best teams remaining in the NBA against each other. There was a controversial ruling in game 4 when Diaw and Stoudemire left the bench during an altercation and were suspended for game 5. In 2008, the Spurs beat the Suns 4–1 in the first round. Tim Duncan hit a three-pointer to force overtime and win the series. In 2010, the Suns swept the Spurs in four games in the playoffs, including a big time performance by Goran Dragic in game 3, against the team who originally drafted him, scoring 23 fourth quarter points, which amounted to 26 points in thirteen minutes. The rivalry has cooled off, with the Spurs winning most of the meetings, but that wasn't the case on February 21, 2014, where the Suns blew out the road-weary Spurs, who were ending the Rodeo Road Trip in Phoenix, 106–85. Markieff Morris of the Suns lead all scorers with 26 points. Danny Green lead the Spurs with a low 15 points. On April 11, 2014, the Spurs clinched the league-best record, and at the same time, handing the Suns a loss that would keep them out of the postseason, winning 112–104, with Danny Green setting a career high 33 points. In a pre-season game on October 16, 2014, Suns owner Robert Sarver apologized to the Phoenix crowd for the game, where the Spurs rested 5 people, including Popovich. Pop would only end his statement about the incident with, "The only thing that surprises me is that he didn't say it in a chicken suit."
Since becoming the San Antonio Spurs in 1973, the team colors have been black, silver and white. The distinctive logo of the word Spurs in Eurostile font, with the stylized spur substituting for the letter U, has been a part of the team's identity since their move to San Antonio. The logo incorporated 'Fiesta colors' of pink, orange and teal, used from 1989 to 2002 (though the uniforms remained the same), and alignment from straight to arched beginning with the 2002–03 NBA season.
The Spurs have always worn black on the road and white at home, except during the 1973–76 ABA seasons and their first NBA season when the home uniform was always silver. Until the 1988–89 NBA season, the road uniform had "San Antonio" on the front while the home uniform featured the team nickname adopted from the Spurs logo; from 1973 to 1982, the road uniform lettering was black with silver trim. In addition, from 1977–81 a saddle-like striping was featured on the back of the home shorts. Since the 1989–90 NBA season the Spurs uniform has remained practically the same, with the road uniform now using the team nickname from their logo; a minor change included the addition of another black (road) and white (home) trim to the already silver-trimmed block numbers in the 2002–03 season. The Spurs wear black sneakers and socks on the road, and white sneakers and socks at home (except for select games with the silver alternates), a practice that began in the 2002–03 season. When the NBA moved to the Adidas Revolution 30 technology for the 2010–11 season, the Spurs changed to V-neck jerseys and eliminated striping on the shorts' beltline.
On September 19, 2012, the Spurs unveiled a silver alternate uniform. In breaking from the traditional practice of placing the team or city name in front, the Spurs' new uniform features only the stylized spur logo, with the black number trimmed in white and silver on the upper right. The Spurs primary logo is atop the player name and number on the back (replaced by the NBA logo prior to the 2014–15 season), while the Eurostile 'SA' initials (for San Antonio) are on the left leg of the shorts. Black, silver and white side stripes are also featured on the uniform. The uniforms are worn for select home games. A variation of this uniform, featuring military camouflage patterns instead of the usual silver, was used for two games in the 2013–14 season; a sleeved version was used the next season. Another variation, this time in black, was unveiled for the 2015–16 season.
At times throughout the season, the Spurs wear a jersey that says "Los Spurs" on the front, in recognition of Latino fans both at home and across the US and Latin America. The Spurs were one of the first NBA teams to wear these branded jerseys. In 2014, the jerseys were sleeved. These events are called "Noches Latinas", first launched during the 2006–07 NBA season, part of an Hispanic marketing campaign known as "éne-bé-a". Six teams in the NBA participate in these events. The Spurs have had the most players from Latin America and are one of only three NBA teams who have had at least five players on their rosters who originate from Latin America and Spain (if one includes Puerto Rico as part of Latin America, although it is a U.S. territory), the others being the Memphis Grizzlies and the Portland Trail Blazers.
List of the last five seasons completed by the Spurs. For the full season-by-season history, see List of San Antonio Spurs seasons.
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, % = Winning Percentage
Dallas (Texas) ChaparralsState Fair Coliseum (1967–1973)
Moody Coliseum (1967–1973)
Tarrant County Coliseum (1970–1971)
Lubbock Municipal Coliseum (1970–1971)
San Antonio SpursHemisFair Arena (1973–1993)
AT&T Center (formerly SBC Center) (2002–present)
The Spurs own the NBA rights to the players listed in the table below. The typical pattern is to allow the player to develop in leagues outside the USA. The player is free to negotiate contracts in other leagues and is not obligated to play in the NBA. Sometimes, a player's overseas contract may have an expensive buyout clause that would discourage the Spurs from seeking to bring him in. The Spurs have had past success in finding foreign talent; some examples of this success include the selections of second rounder Manu Ginóbili (57th overall in 1999) and first rounder Tony Parker (28th overall in 2001), who both went on to become All-Stars.
Notes:1 On July 9, 2015, the Spurs "unretired" and reissued the number 12 to LaMarcus Aldridge with the blessing of Bruce Bowen.
1 Played and coached (1967–1970) for the team when they were known as Dallas Chaparrals (ABA).
2 Started playing for the team during its time in ABA.
3 In total, Robinson was inducted into the Hall of Fame twice – as player and as a member of the 1992 Olympic team.
Bold denotes still active with team. "Name*" includes points scored for the team while in the ABA. Italics denotes still active but not with team.
Points scored (regular season) (as of the end of the 2015–16 season)
Other Statistics (regular season) (as of the end of the 2015–16 season)
1During the 1996–97 season, Bob Hill coached 18 regular season games. Hill was fired on December 10, 1996, and Gregg Popovich coached the remaining 64 regular season games.
2During the 1992–93 season, Jerry Tarkanian coached 20 regular season games. Tarkanian was fired on December 18, 1992. Rex Hughes then coached one regular season game, and John Lucas coached the remaining 61 regular season games as well as the playoffs.
3During the 1991–92 season, Larry Brown coached 38 regular season games. Brown was fired on January 21, 1992, and Bob Bass coached the remaining 44 regular season games as well as the playoffs.
4During the 1983–84 season, Morris McHone coached 31 regular season games. McHone was fired on December 28, 1983, and Bob Bass coached the remaining 51 regular season games.
5During the 1979–80 season, Doug Moe coached 66 regular season games. Moe was fired on March 1, 1980, and Bob Bass coached the remaining 16 regular season games as well as the playoffs.