San Antonio Spurs reject 'too old' tag
Written off again for being 'too old' this season, San Antonio are just four wins away from taking the crown and having the last laugh
The San Antonio Spurs refuse to let talk of them being too old get in the way of their NBA championship dreams.
In what has become a familiar refrain, the Spurs opened yet another NBA campaign to waves of doubt as critics dismissed them as too old and slow to handle an 82-game regular season and four testing best-of-seven play-off series.
But the Spurs, powered by a seemingly ageless Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, have proved the doubters wrong by reaching the NBA finals for the first time since 2007, the last time they won the title.
"We've been old for probably eight years now," Ginobili said. "I remember in 2007, our last championship, they were saying that we were old, and it's all right."
Duncan, 37, Ginobili, 35, and Parker, 31, will again lead the way for the Spurs when the NBA finals open today in Florida against a Miami Heat team powered by four-time NBA most-valuable-player LeBron James, 28.
The Spurs won NBA titles in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007 during a remarkable stretch for a 46-year-old franchise that began as the Dallas Chaparrals of the American Basketball Association.
After some lean years, a relocation and name change, the Spurs started to come together and in 1979, just their third year in the NBA, they made it to the conference finals where they lost after squandering a 3-1 series lead.
The Spurs, led by Hall of Famer George Gervin, captured five division titles in their first seven years in the NBA and were a perennial play-off participant that could never find a break.
That all changed in 1987 when, after several losing seasons and dwindling attendances, San Antonio took future Hall of Famer David Robinson with the first overall pick in the 1988 draft.
He was joined by Duncan, the first pick in 1997, and two years later the duo known as the "twin towers" led the Spurs to their first NBA title.
By the time the Spurs won their second title in 2003, the team featured a dynamic new cast including second-year French shooting guard Parker and Argentine point guard Ginobili.
Together with Duncan, the trio have established the Spurs as a force in an ultra-competitive Western Conference where they have finished outside the top three once in the past 11 seasons.
San Antonio charged through this season with a 58-24 record that earned them the Southwest Division crown and the Western Conference's second seed.
They went on to beat the Los Angeles Lakers in four games, edged the Golden State Warriors in six games and then swept the Memphis Grizzlies for the Western Conference championship.
So while the Spurs, who fell two wins shy of a finals berth last year, have one of the NBA's oldest starting line-ups, there is nothing old about the way they have put themselves four wins away from a fifth championship.
"Since last year, I promised to him [Duncan] that we will go back, go back to the finals and get an opportunity to win the whole thing and I'm trying to do my best, try to be aggressive every night," Parker said.
"I think everybody on the team, we really want to do it for him. We win the West and now it's one more step. This is the hardest one."