The long and short of it
Spurs, Duncan took different roads to first NBA title
Posted: Saturday June 26, 1999 03:03 AM
By Desmond M. Wallace, CNN/SI
You know that you are in select company when the only other person to accomplish what you've just done is Magic Johnson.
Averaging 27.4 points and 14 rebounds during the 1999 NBA Finals, 23-year old Tim Duncan became the second-youngest person ever to be named the NBA Finals MVP.
Johnson won the award twice before his 23rd birthday, while leading the Lakers to championships in 1980 and 1982.
But while Duncan waited only two seasons to win his first NBA title, both David Robinson and the city of San Antonio have had to be more patient.
And in reality, the Spurs' path to the 1999 NBA championship started by winning the 1997 NBA Draft lottery.
Before Duncan's arrival in the Lone Star State as the first overall pick in 1997, Robinson played in 53 playoff games without even making it to the NBA Finals.
But within two seasons of Duncan's arrival, Robinson not only would make it to the championship round, but would win it in his first try.
And for San Antonio, a championship has been a long time coming.
Just 11 games into the 1975-'76 ABA season, the San Diego Conquistadors folded. The Utah Stars followed suit about a week later.
The pair of events would foreshadow what would become the ABA's final season of existence. However, as a lasting tribute to the old red, white and blue ABA, four of its teams would be absorbed by the NBA: the Denver Nuggets, the Indiana Pacers, the New York (later New Jersey) Nets and the San Antonio Spurs.
Having joined the NBA for the 1976-'77 season after nine seasons in the ABA, the San Antonio Spurs finally have emerged as NBA champions after a long, often winding road to basketball glory.
And with their Finals win over the New York Knicks, the Spurs became the first of the ABA foursome to win an NBA championship.
In fact, the Spurs' 23-year search, which doesn't include their ABA years, for the NBA title ranks among the longest in league history for an eventual champion.
The longest number of years played before winning a NBA title belongs to the Detroit Pistons, who lost in the NBA Finals three times before finally breaking through in 1989 after 41 years.
Only the Pistons, who played in 176 playoff games before finally winning that 1989 crown, have played in more postseason games than San Antonio en route to their first NBA championship.
Yet, what the Spurs have done this season is remarkable. They became just the fourth team since 1960 to win the NBA championship in their first appearance in the Finals.
And it all started with a little ping-pong ball.