End of an era: Spurs out of playoffs 22 years later

The Spurs say goodbye to 22 consecutive playoff seasons leaving behind an unrivaled legacy around a historical figure: Gregg Popovich.


If there is objective security in the world, it is that no matter how much it weighs (us), everything is over. Even that which seems imperishable, unalterable or immovable, sooner or later, comes to an end. And in the NBA, as much as it is wrapped in that Hollywood aura that conveys a feeling of absolute eternity, the same thing happens. Nothing escapes the clutches of time, no matter how many stars or franchises are remembered forever. That is the maximum that can be aspired to in the best league in the world, to leave an indelible mark that transcends over the years. But in the end, as long as you linger in memory, the glory days are coming to an end. And that has happened to the Spurs, that historic team that has been in the playoffs year after year, uninterrupted, up to 22 times. One after another. Just one from the record for American sports. But that, as has happened on other occasions, has fallen on the path of what could have been a new milestone, leaving behind one of the longest-lasting and most successful dynasties in the history of sport.

The Spurs will not be in the playoffs for the first time since 1997. They leave their mark in 22 years in a row, the same as the Nationals / 76ers between 1950 and 1971. They have not been the first team with 23 consecutive trips to the playoffs, there were no more miracles in the pockets of a legendary team. One that in this section has won five rings (the same as the Lakers in that period) and have added more victories than anyone in the playoffs (170) and Regular Season (1,228) .

The Spurs have seen their streak cut in the year of the coronavirus, they have died killing and have fought to the end for a position that seemed impossible and that finally has been. They have done it after a bad regular season that has been the confirmation of a gradual fall into hell, with increasingly worse records and far from the 50-game winning machine that they were in their day. Not the previous two years, when they added 47 and 48 victories respectively, but in this one, in which they have barely stayed at 33. Their worst balance since 1996-97, the year in which Gregg Popovich, then in the offices, he fired Bob Hill and headed to the bench to coach a team led by a David Robinson who had won the MVP of the season in 1995, just two seasons earlier. The pivot's injuries, which returned to relapse, prevented the Spurs from achieving records similar to the previous seasons, remaining in just 20 victories and, accusations of tanking through, taking number 1 in the draft.

There came Tim Duncan, a man indivisible to Popovich and to the franchise itself, of which he is now second coach. The power forward's shadow is elongated, and with Robinson stepping back and him forward, the first ring fell, in 1999. The year of the asterisk for Phil Jackson (50 games were played and there was no All Star), a denomination that Popovich never forgave him. There he developed his animosity towards the Lakers, who beat the Spurs in 2001 and 2002 before the Los Angeles dynasty fell in 2003 to the Texans, who ended the reign of yellow fever and subdued Master Zen in a playoff series. for the first time since 1995, when he was with the Bulls. In total there were 25 consecutive heats, a record that came to an end in a world in which, you know, everything ends.

That year the second ring fell for the Texans, the last for a David Robinson who put an end to his extraordinary career and the first for Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. The Spurs repeated in 2005 (against the Pistons) and in 2007 (against LeBron's Cavaliers), before entering a few years of uncertainty, with a slight downturn from Duncan and away from the rings but with commendable regular seasons in which he continued to beat one record after another. Popovich progressed with his team, changed things, dominated the pick and roll era as he had dominated the tall men before, and plunged into the triple without derailing. The attack could no longer be monopolized by his crown jewel (Duncan) and the Texans developed an increasingly collaborative game that resulted in the 2013 Finals and the 2014 ring. The first year was the biggest mistake of the race of Pop, who sat Duncan when he didn't have to and saw Chris Bosh take advantage of his absence to catch an offensive rebound, enable Ray Allen, and have Ray Allen force extra time when the Heat were already lost and people had started to go from the stadium. The second was redemption, ending King LeBron in one of the greatest exhibitions of collaborative play in history.

It was the last ring of the dynasty, the fifth in total, the same as the Lakers since Jordan's retirement, both teams being the main dominators of the last 20 years. But while the Angelenos were absent from the playoffs, lived through the worst crisis in their history and tried to overcome the retirement of the now longed for Kobe Bryant, the Spurs remained at the foot of the canyon. Especially Popovich, who lived his most nostalgic time while watching Tim Duncan retire in 2016. He was followed by Ginobili (2018) and Parker (2019), who went through the Hornets before putting an end to his career. And even without the most iconic big three in history, Popovich managed to make the playoffs last year, leading the Nuggets to Game 7 in the first round and being competitive when he had to.

You can't talk about the NBA without talking about the Spurs, just as Popovich's Texas entity, the man who put them on the map, is indivisible. 23 years later and at 71 springs (he took the team at 48), the coach is still one of the most brilliant minds in the competition, he has a very well-directed (and social) speech that contrasts with the absence of paraphernalia inherent to the teams who has managed and is, without a doubt, one of the best coaches in history. With five rings (and three Best Coach awards) his legacy goes beyond what he has won, and his durability and dominance over time has set historical records, ranging from the countless times he has played the playoffs to having added to 18 consecutive seasons above 50 wins. It's the end of an era in the NBA. And, as much as it all ends, the Spurs and their spectacular dynasty will have managed to leave their mark on the history of the sport and become imperishable for memories. With Popovich at the helm, of course.

Photos from as.com
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