Spurs Nation is a much-needed balm, especially now that I live 1,327.3 miles west of the ATT Center, a straight shot on Interstate-10. The fanzine-like book’s soothing words span the distance between my home in Southern California and my former life in south-central Texas, fusing the past with the present.
But the heavily illustrated book also helps bring the present into sharper focus. So I thought the other morning while I was working my way through the sports section of the Los Angeles Times. On Pearl Harbor Day, the Clippers went up against the Golden State Warriors and were destroyed. That didn’t bother me, as I’m not a fan of either team (but I love that their coaches are former Spurs).
What bothered me was this rankling line in columnist Bill Plashcke’s withering, postgame analysis of the Clippers’ collapse: “Everything was in place Wednesday night for a celebrated meeting between the two best teams in the Western Conference and a potential preview for a spring showdown.” Read that again—“the two best teams in the Western Conference.”
The claim is nonsense on so many levels. On this particular Day of Infamy, the Clippers were, in fact, the third best team in the Western Conference, running two and a half games behind the Spurs. Put that stat in the larger context of the two franchises’ histories and Plaschke’s comment is even harder to fathom. In the long run, the Clippers have nothing on the Silver and Black’s record of success in regular or postseason play; the Clips have yet to win one championship, let alone five.
So, yes, I take solace in Spurs Nation and its colorful depiction—in prose and images—of the Spurs’ extraordinary run to date, from the 1987 lottery pick of David Robinson to the loss in the 2016 Western Conference semifinals to the Oklahoma Thunder; from the grainy photo of the smiling Robinson holding up his jersey (5-0! 5-0!) following the Spurs’ selection of him to the now iconic shot of Tim Duncan, his back to the camera, his right hand raised in farewell as he walks off the court for the last time.
In between these snapshots are a wealth of memories.
- 1994: David Robinson drops 71 points on the hapless Clips on April 24 to snatch the league scoring title from Shaquille O’Neal.
- 1996: Gregg Popovich’s surprise firing of Coach Bob Hill on December 10. Twenty years later, the controversial move seems so right, as does Pop’s commentary when asked if he would coach the following season: “Next year? I’m not even thinking about next year. It doesn’t interest me. I’m just thinking day-to-day on how to get this team where it needs to be.” Mission accomplished.
- 1999: Ring One. “The old ABA franchise that couldn’t finally did.”
- 2003: Conference finals. Malik Rose captured the Game Six crushing of the Lakers, the Spurs’ nemesis: “Once we started to materialize in the third quarter, we started to smell blood, and see blood. So we went for it.” Ring Two followed.
- 2004: Okay, let’s agree not to talk about what happened when the Silver and Black lost to the Purple and Gold. I remember hiding out in the local H-E-B.
- 2005: I spent a lot of time in that same grocery store pretending to shop while casting furtive glances at a flickering screen broadcasting Game Five. That’s where I witnessed Robert Horry drain the 3-pointer that kept the Spurs alive. Game Seven brought Ring Three.
- 2007: Another series, another ring. Michael Finley said: “A lot of people wrote us, as they usually do. But we stayed resilient, believed in the system, and believed in one another.”
- 2013: “An epic collapse.” A painful read.
- 2014: Cinco = joy.
The Spurs have had an extraordinary two-decade run. Moments golden and dark—and you need one to frame the other, so that the whole can emerge in its memorable fullness—are nicely juxtaposed in text designed to resemble the layout of the sports section. The words, with all the authority of a Tim Duncan putback, jump off the page right into our lives.