San Antonio Spurs History
The Spurs franchise regularly qualified for the postseason in its first 20 years, both as a member of the now-defunct American Basketball Association (ABA) and after the team joined the NBA following the 1975-76 season. In 1999, led by center David Robinson and forward Tim Duncan, the team advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time. In the finals the Spurs defeated the New York Knicks, four games to one.
Established as the Dallas Chaparrals in 1967, the team was one of the original 11 ABA teams. Led by player-coach and former St. Louis Hawks star Cliff Hagan, the Chaparrals recorded winning seasons in their first three years. By 1972, however, the team had dropped to the bottom of the league, and attendance sagged.
Before the 1973-74 season a group of investors bought the franchise, moved it to San Antonio, and renamed it the Spurs. The new owners also obtained several key players, including guard George Gervin. Known as The Iceman for his cool demeanor, Gervin helped the Spurs become one of the ABA's top teams in the mid-1970s.
After the ABA folded in 1976, the Spurs and three other ABA teams joined the NBA. The Spurs made the playoffs in their first season in the NBA and won the Central Division title in their second and third years. Much of the team's success was due to Gervin, whose offensive skills won him four scoring titles. In the Spurs' third NBA season, 1978-79, the club advanced to the conference finals before losing to the Washington Bullets, four games to three.
The league realigned its divisions in 1980, moving the Spurs to the Western Conference. There the team reached the conference finals in 1982 and 1983, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers both times. The Spurs then suffered through several losing seasons in the mid- to late 1980s. The franchise won the number-one pick in the 1987 draft and selected David Robinson, from the United States Naval Academy.
After fulfilling his two-year commitment to the Navy, Robinson joined the Spurs for the 1989-90 season. His impact was immediate: The Spurs, who had finished last in the Midwest Division in 1988-89, won the division in 1989-90, and Robinson won the NBA's rookie of the year award. Powered by Robinson, the Spurs won more than 50 games five times in the early and mid-1990s, although they were unable to advance to the conference finals. In the 1993-94 season Robinson and forward Dennis Rodman became the first NBA teammates to lead the league in scoring (29.8) and rebounding (17.3), respectively. In 1994-95 the franchise experienced its best win-loss record ever at 62-20, and Robinson also won the NBA's most valuable player (MVP) award. San Antonio once again reached the playoffs in 1995-96, but the team's performance declined in the 1996-97 season after Robinson was sidelined by a broken foot for much of the year.
The Spurs improved dramatically in 1997-98, as Robinson and rookie of the year Tim Duncan led the team to a 56-26 record. In the lockout-shortened 1999 season the Spurs registered a 37-13 record and finished first in the Midwest Division. The club lost only two games in four postseason series, and defeated the New York Knicks in the NBA Finals to claim the franchise's first league title.