In November, just in time for Christmas, Trinity University Press will publish “Spurs Nation: Major Moments in San Antonio Basketball.” The staff of the San Antonio Express-News, under the direction of Sports Editor Jim Lefko, compiled articles that chronicle the greatest era in Spurs basketball. Five championships and an array of other accolades have established a basketball dynasty in San Antonio and a unique fan base to support it.
The book begins on May 17, 1987, the day the Spurs drafted David Robinson from the Navy and ends on May 12, 2016, when the Spurs lost the Western Conference semifinals to the Oklahoma City Thunder, with strong hints to Tim Duncan’s retirement that would be confirmed later that summer. These events, almost 29 years apart, have yet to be marked properly as the beginning and the end for the old guard.
The men who have given the San Antonio Spurs the championships, the stoicism, the fundamentals, the downtown honks, the river parades, and so much more are finishing their time. As the team begins to build for the new era, it’s worth a look at how the franchise got its legs.
Most of the people who will read this book already know most of the subject matter and timeline of these stories. But for many younger readers, the history within these articles is illuminating. For example, it may come as a surprise to some that Gregg Popovich gave himself his job as head coach in 1996 when he fired Bob Hill after two dismal years at the helm. Popovich was vice president of basketball operations at the time. As they say, “classic Pop.”
The book does a fine job recounting David Robinson’s career. The amount of work he invested in putting the Spurs on the map is on display, as various articles record his 71-point game and his historic quadruple-double, a feat that’s only been done four times in the history of the NBA. The book nicely chronicles the play and personality of Tim Duncan as well, frequently noting him as the calm team leader and reliable offensive weapon he always was.
What the book lacks is a proper introduction to Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili, making their abilities and their accomplishments feel like foregone conclusions. As the record shows here, from 2003 on, the Big Three developed into one of the most effective teams in NBA history.
The latter are inclusions true Spurs fan would expect from this kind of collection, but there are a few other things that make this book a must have for any die-hard Spurs fan.
The book doesn’t just recount major championships, it also highlights intrinsic connections that developed over the years. The San Antonio community was strengthened by these NBA title wins, and it showed every time. Fans would descend upon downtown San Antonio and turn the River Walk into an all-night party.The article about the fans’ reaction to winning the title in 2005 depicts just that.
“Strangers hugged strangers, and there were high fives all around,” Sheila Hotchkin wrote. “‘I’ve never met this guy in my life,’ said 23-year-old Zach Means, clutching another man in a warm hug along the River Walk. ‘But I love him because he’s a Spurs fan.’”
The book does an even better job of reminding us that all of the accomplishments and praise that have been heaped on the Spurs aren’t Robinson’s or Duncan’s or Parker’s alone.
It prompts us to ponder the work that Sean Elliot did to keep the team alive in the ’99 playoffs.
Robert Horry’s perimeter work in the ’05 finals deserves to be talked about more often than not.
Also faded into obscurity is Steve Kerr’s time in San Antonio: his performance as the backup point guard for a sick Parker in the ’99 Western Conference finals effectively secured the Spurs’ spot in that year’s finals.
The level of teamwork that is often missing in discussing Spurs history is here in spades, whereas other sources often credit Robinson, Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili. The team is a family, and the book does well to remember the second cousins as well as the patriarchs in this proverbial family reunion.
Due in November, “Spurs Nation” would make a great gift for anyone with sincere love for San Antonio’s hometown team. For the older crowd, the nostalgia the book will generate will be worth the $30 price tag 10 times over. As the younger generation watches the new crop of players filter in, this chronicle will fill them in on who they have to thank for the caliber of basketball they are privileged to watch today.
The book is available at bookstores around the city and through the San Antonio Express-News shop here. It’s also available for preorder at online retailers with a release date of Nov. 15
UPDATE: A previous version of this article did not state that the book is available at various locations in town.