Tony Parker was in his second season and naïve as could be in 2003, the year he won his first NBA championship. It came so quickly that Parker figured Larry O’Brien trophies were a birthright that came with playing for the Spurs. “I was 21, and it came kind of fast,” the All-Star point guard said. “You think it’s going to happen every year. You think it’s easy.” The past six fruitless years have provided the 31-year-old Parker with some perspective. The Spurs have hung four championship banners since 1999, and Parker has been around for three of them. But none of those have come since 2007. Figuratively speaking, those banners are starting to yellow and fray in the AT&T Center rafters. The titles that produced them are, in NBA terms, ancient history. “Those are basically in the Dark Ages,” coach Gregg Popovich said. The Spurs touched down in Miami late Monday afternoon itching for a renaissance. At AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday night, in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the Spurs face the first of two chances to bring their championship résumé up to date. Ahead 3-2 against LeBron James and the defending champion Heat, the Spurs stand one victory away from an unexpected fifth championship that many in San Antonio had already given up on. “I think every one of us wants this very badly, from the top on down,” said 37-year-old forward Tim Duncan, a three-time Finals MVP and the only player on the roster on hand for all four Spurs championships. “We’re trying to play that way.” In the feverish preparations for what could be a decisive Game 6, the Spurs are unlikely to waste time ruminating on what a win might mean to the collective profile of the franchise. A fifth NBA title would not reshape the legacy of the Duncan-Popovich Spurs so much as remind the world that legacy existed in the first place. With a victory in either of the next two games — both in Miami — the Spurs would pull within one championship of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls for third place all-time. With his fifth crown, Duncan would pass Shaquille O’Neal — the only other name in discussion for “Best Big Man of His Generation” — and equal two other Los Angeles Lakers luminaries, Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson. “It will be something great to look back on when I’m done,” Duncan said. “But in the heat of things, that’s just not anything I ever look up or think about.” A fifth Finals win would cement Popovich’s visage on the Mount Rushmore of great NBA coaches, alongside Red Auerbach, Pat Riley and Phil Jackson. Only Jackson (11) and Auerbach (nine) would own more titles.
Two shots at glory for Spurs
San Antonio Express-News | Jun 18