NBA.com takes a look back at the top moments that define the history of the NBA.
When David Robinson suffered a broken foot six games into the 1996-97 season, the San Antonio Spurs’ season quickly went down the drain and any thoughts towards postseason success were immediately replaced by thoughts of bouncing lottery balls.
As luck would have it, Robinson’s injury came with a silver lining that catapulted the Spurs to a run of four NBA championships in nine seasons. That bit of luck? Being awarded the first overall selection in the 1997 Draft following the team’s 20-62 season.
The pick was used on Wake Forest forward Tim Duncan and the “Twin Towers” were born.
With Robinson standing at 7-foot-1 and Duncan at 6-foot-11, the duo would play six seasons together, combine for eight All-Star appearances and seven First- or Second-Team NBA All-Defensive Team selections. Duncan would also add a pair of MVPs and Finals MVPs as well.
The weight of Duncan’s addition was felt immediately. He and Robinson — both named All-Stars in their first season together, 1997-98 — would each average over 20 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks per game. By 1999, San Antonio had its first championship.
The following season, a knee injury sidelined Duncan just before the postseason and the Spurs weren’t able to survive the playoffs without him, losing to the Phoenix Suns in the first round. After falling to the eventual champion Lakers in the playoffs each of the following two seasons, San Antonio entered the 2002-03 season knowing an era was coming to an end.
In the offseason, Robinson, now 37, announced that he would retire after 2002-03. San Antonio would also move into a new stadium, the SBC Center — now the AT&T Center.
The Spurs finished the regular season with the NBA’s best record (60-22), earning homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs as Duncan was named the MVP for the second consecutive season.
After handling the Phoenix Suns in the first round, San Antonio played the Lakers for the third straight postseason. This time, however, it would be the Spurs who’d move on.
The home team would win each of the first five games, with San Antonio nearly blowing a 25-point lead in Game 5 before hanging on to win 96-94. With a chance to become the first team to eliminate the Lakers from the postseason for the first time in four seasons, the Spurs dismantled Los Angeles in a 110-82 victory. Duncan had 37 points and 16 rebounds to solidify his MVP selection over the Lakers’ All-Star duo of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
San Antonio faced Dallas in the Western Conference finals in a matchup of the clubs with the NBA’s two best records. For the third straight series, San Antonio defeated its opponent in six games, returning to The Finals for the first time since 1999.
The Spurs faced the New Jersey Nets in the first Finals series between former ABA teams.
Having been swept by the Lakers in The Finals the previous season, the Nets were out to prove their Finals return was no fluke. San Antonio, however, proved too strong for New Jersey to handle. After splitting the first four games, the Spurs won 93-83 in Game 5 before closing the door in Game 6.
In fitting fashion, San Antonio was led by Duncan and Robinson. While Robinson’s play had fallen off in the the later portion of his career, the 1995 MVP turned the clock back with a 13-point, 17-rebound performance in Game 6.
But it was Duncan who again took the spotlight. In one of the finest performances in Finals history, Duncan had 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and eight blocks in the 88-77 victory. He was also the critical force behind a 19-0 run in the fourth quarter that blew the game open.
To no one’s surprise, Duncan was named Finals MVP. As for the other half of the “Twin Towers,” Robinson was able to end his illustrious Hall of Fame career on the highest note possible.
“My last game, streamers flying, world champions. How could you write a better script than this, man?” Robinson said.