1999: Spurs Tower Over NBA
The 1998-99 NBA season will be remembered as the year Tim Duncan and David Robinson led the San Antonio Spurs to the first championship in franchise history, a 4-1 Finals victory over the New York Knicks.
The Knicks had become the first eighth-seeded team in NBA history to advance to the Finals, defeating Miami, Atlanta and Indiana in earlier rounds.
For veteran players like Robinson, Sean Elliott, and Avery Johnson (three long-time Spurs), the championship meant even more.
It goes a long ways towards fulfilling a lot of [my NBA] dreams," Robinson said. " You know that one big goal that I had, achieving that goal, has been met. Now I have to set new goals and new things, and if this was easy, though, it really wouldn't be worth the journey, and that's what makes it so special. You go through all those hard times, you get through all the creases and everything else, then you're able to finally get it done. And it's satisfying."
Johnson, for his part, was the hero in the Spurs' title-clinching win at Madison Square Garden by knocking down an 18-foot baseline jumper with 47 seconds to give San Antonio a 78-77 victory.
"It's funny," Johnson said. "When we signed Steve Kerr and I met him the first time and I had not met him, but got a chance to talk to him in training camp. That's one of the first questions I asked him, about hitting the big shots against Utah. He said it's unbelievable, an unbelievable feeling. But the main thing is you have to know you're going to shoot it. Don't hesitate, shoot it, let it go, get to the spots where you like to operate. I got right there within 18 feet, which is where I like to operate, and it felt good."
Finals MVP Duncan was feeling good all season. The playoffs offered a chance to prove he has become the best player in the league. And after his postseason performance, few observers would argue that notion.
After Game 5 Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said of Duncan: "Getting ready for them in preparation, watching a lot of film, he's obviously the best player in the NBA right now. Not just because of his skill level, I think his maturity, knowledge of the game, that he just cares about winning. You can just watch a guy play and know if he's truly into winning or not. That guy's truly into winning."
With a 37-13 regular-season record and a dominating march to the NBA title, the same thing should be said about the entire 1998-99 Spurs team.
San Antonio (37-13): The brilliance of Tim Duncan, who is considered by many to be the best player in the game, and David Robinson, along with a savvy group of role players, enabled the Spurs to win their first NBA title. The Spurs struggled at first with a 6-8 record, but erupted to win 31 of their final 36 regular season games to capture the home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. With Duncan and Robinson dominating the paint at both ends of the court, the Spurs became the first former ABA team to win the NBA title.