How the most memorable 30 moments were chosen

I’ve already gotten a couple of e-mails and I’ve seen some of the internet chat wondering how we picked our Spurs Most Memorable Moments series that concluded earlier today.

Let me first say that the idea behind the series was to reflect on some of the most memorable moments — both good and bad — in team history. That’s why we included memories like Derek Fisher’s 0.4 shot and Charles Barkley’s jumper that closed HemisFair Arena in 1993 with all of the championships.

Some have asked if we underrated David Robinson’s contributions to the team and wondered why Tim Duncan’s lottery selection was placed above his.

It’s true that you could say that Robinson’s lottery selection saved the team in San Antonio. But the same could be said about Duncan’s as well. If the Spurs ended up with Ron Mercer, Keith Van Horn or Tony Battie instead of Duncan, that team today likely is in St. Louis, Anaheim or Louisville. After the 20-62 season in 1997, the Spurs had little momentum even with Robinson and Sean Elliott on the team. The drafting of Duncan catapulted them into the strata where they could legitimately challenge for NBA titles.

And that’s the major reason I ultimately picked the Spurs’ deciding victory over New York as a bigger moment than Elliott’s “Memorial Day Miracle.” Same playoff series. Different rounds. And the one that won the shooting match ranks as my most memorable moment.

Elliott’s game-winning shot was huge and gave the Spurs confidence they could advance where no team in the franchise’s history had ever been before — the NBA Finals. But they still needed two more games to win that series and both were relatively easy victories, despite playing in Portland.

And while the New York Finals series never was really a challenge, the reaction of San Antonio after those games concluded was what pushed it to the top. There’s something to be said about the first of anything and San Antonio’s first championship was that way to me.

Remember how San Antonio fans piled into the streets to celebrate that 1999 title. There were no reports of major damage or arrests afterwards.

Nearly a quarter of San Antonio’s population turned out to the parade after that title. Every San Antonio commercial television station broadcast the proceedings later in the Alamodome when the title was celebrated. For the long-suffering minions of Spurs Nation, those were heady times indeed.

It’s interesting to see how much luck was a part of the Spurs’ run of four championships in nine seasons. Getting Robinson and Duncan meant that the Spurs had to finish No. 1 in the lottery, but also the right lottery.  

The Spurs were fortunate to be able to pick at the top when iconic players like Duncan and Robinson who were among the best of their generation were available. They could have won the lottery when the top picks were Michael Olowokandi and Pervis Ellison.

But at  the same time, it’s also interesting to note the job that Gregg Popovich, R.C. Buford and others on the Spurs staff have done in surrounding those players with draft steals like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. They’ve done the best job of any modern dynasty of managing a team concept rather than building a title squad where  superstar talent was the biggest reason for success.

Winning the other titles were certainly moments to be remembered, although it seemed to me that the attitude became more blase with each resulting championship. They were still fun, but there were a few other moments bigger than Parker winning the MVP award in the Spurs’ four-game sweep against Cleveland in 2007. And most Spurs fans probably remember Robert Horry’s “Big Shot Rob” moment in Game 5 of the 2005 series more readily than when the Spurs finished out the Pistons two games later.

I was pleased to be able to include most of the most memorable Spurs players in a moment. I would have liked to included a Ginobili moment a little higher, but his bat moment was one that resonated to me. He’s won games in the past, but none have really stood out like some of the other clutch shots in big games like his other teammates.

Obviously, most of the memories from the championships have come since Popovich has taken over, but I’m glad to have included some of the old ABA memories to round out the list. Anybody who watched that great league as I was privileged to do — even though my team of memory was the Memphis Pros/Tams/Sounds — will remember the legacy that era provided for the teams that survived into the NBA.

It was interesting to research all of these  memories. I’d like to thank the folks at the downtown branch of the San Antonio Public Library, who were so unfailingly helpful in steering me in the right direction during my research. 

And I’d also like to acknowledge some of the coverage of other reporters before me like Barry Robinson, Kevin O’Keeffe, Glenn Rogers, Jeff Grossman, David Flores, Mike Bruton, Jim Hutton, Ray Evans, Johnny Ludden, Tom Orsborn, Jerry Briggs, Kelley Shannon, Jim Lefko and Brad Townsend. Along with our current group of Jeff McDonald, Mike Monroe and Buck Harvey, the Spurs have always been extremely well covered by the local print media over the years.

It was a lot of fun to look back and remember some of these great and not-so-great memories for Spurs Nation.

But I’m actually about ready for some real games to begin.

How about you?

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