It was starting Thursday night before the second half had even started, with the broadcast team on ABC trying to decide where to put a team that’s won four titles in nine years among the game’s great teams. A corollary debate was where Tim Duncan belongs among the game’s greats.
They’re better than Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics — at least on their records.
Those Celts won three titles and the Spurs have four. And if all that counts are rings, the argument is ended.
No, someone is going to say. The Celtics may have won one fewer title from 1981-86, but they had to contend with a great Philadelphia team for several of those years in their own conference and with the Lakers of Magic Johnson, who won five titles, in the West. And who have the Spurs beaten — Cleveland, New Jersey, New York and Detroit. Some good teams in there, but also some mediocre ones. And not a Magic or Dr. J on any of them.
It’s a lot of hooey, of course. Teams are rated on rings. And if the Spurs have had an easier time in the finals, they’ve had to play in the West against the Lakers and Suns and Mavs — great teams all.
The guess here is that it won’t be enough. The Spurs don’t have that spectacular player who sells the shoes and the jerseys — the measure by which we rate superstars these days. Duncan is clearly one of the game’s greatest players ever, but he’s not spectacular, just incredibly good. For that, he loses points, some will tell you.
The Spurs are destined for the same fate.
That’s the challenge that’s going to be laid out for these Spurs. They’ve got one straight for the fourth time. Now let’s see them do it again next year. Then the doubters will have to come up with another reason to diss them.
As is well known, all the best teams — capital “D” Dynasties — win at least two in a row. The Bulls won three in a row twice. The Kobe-Shaq Lakers won three in a row. The old Celtics, who played in the 1960s before the invention of the dunk and the highlight reel, won eight straight. That was a different era, like baseball 100 years ago or football in the 1940s. It was so long ago, there was only one brand of shoes to wear, and the players didn’t even get paid to wear them. But anyway you look at it, it’s a record that will never be broken.
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