Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sirius About Sports: Top 10 Surprise Winners

5. San Antonio Spurs

What more can be said about the Spurs? People can quibble all day over whether or not they are dynasty (they are not) or if the 1999 title deserved an astrisk (it did not) but the Spurs have a tradition of fufilling the old cliche of "just win baby." And win is what they've done alot of, as the Spurs have made the playoffs 28 out of their 32 seasons and have won 55 or more games every season of Tim Duncan's career except 2000 when they won a measly 53. And the team didn't do so badly in David Robinson or George Gervin's respective eras.

The Spurs also buck a trend by being a hyper-successful franchise in a small, one major league sport market. San Antonio may be the seventh largest city in the country but that figure can be deceiving since it's only the 28th largest metropolitan area and 37th largest TV market (wikipedia is the source, but were dealing with raw numbers here). Even if one were to add Austin to it's market ( a colossal stretch at this current time), it is still smaller or no bigger than cities such as Seattle, Phoenix, Tampa/St. Pete, and Baltimore while being significantly dwarfed by LA, New York/NJ, Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, SF Bay Area, Atlanta and Washington DC. Factor in proximity to other teams (such as Denver's isolation from other cities) and it looks even smaller. And that's with the current numbers because for most of the team's history San Antonio, the metro area has barely been over a million people.

But that's just the beauty. They don't need to be the flashy big market team to succeed. Quietly, they have surpassed franchises such as the Lakers and Yankees to become the best orgaization in sports of the last decade (as in currently, not all-time). And it's not as if the team has no market appeal. Tony Parker (seen above to the left) is the envy of many since he snabbed Hollywood vixen Eva Longoria, which gives the team an unlikely celebrity presence. Add to it the international prescence Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker bring and the Spurs are not the cow town, low exposure uninteresting team people make them out to be.

But what makes the Spurs go starts and end with Tim Duncan (above, right). Without their career 20.2 PPG and 14 RPG player, the Spurs would be similar to franchises such as Portland, Utah, and Phoenix who all have been ultra competitive but have one title between them. While Duncan is far from being the most dominant player in NBA history, he makes a stable contribution and the team can count on him no matter the situation. It was a real perfect storm of circumstances that allowed the Spurs to draft Duncan, as an injury plagued season in 1996-97 dropped the Spurs to a franchise record worst 20-62. The Boston Celtics had the best chance at winning the lottery, but lost to the Spurs. Duncan has a quiet personality, so he is definitely a better fit for San Antonio than he was for passionate Boston.

Since 2003, he's teamed with Parker and Ginobili (and Robinson in his last hurrah) to win titles in odd years, while being a few breaks away from gaining/sustaining serious momentum toward winning that elusive back to back title. Though they failed to do so again this past year, bad news will be another odd year.

Spurs listed #5. An interesting read for varied sports fans.

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