When local businessman Peter M. Holt and a group of 22 investors purchased the San Antonio Spurs from Red McCombs for $75 million on March 26, 1993, they knew they’d taken over a good team, but one that couldn’t quite get over the hump.
In that same year, the franchise moved to a new arena at the Alamodome, but despite a fancy new venue, there wasn't an immediate change in fortunes. The first couple of seasons there followed a similar pattern, losing in the first round of the playoffs, leading to the firing of head coach John Lucas.
In stepped former Pacers coach Bob Hill for the 1994-95 campaign and the team finished with the NBA’s best record and a franchise-best 62-20, with their dominant big man David Robinson named as the league’s MVP. Would this be their year?
Unfortunately not, as they were defeated in the Western Conference finals by the eventual champions the Houston Rockets. The following year saw them knocked out in the conference semi-finals.
Nobody could’ve predicted the team’s shock demise in the 1996-97 season as they finished with a 20-62 record, the worst in franchise history and to date, the only time they have ever missed out on the playoffs as their roster was ravaged by injuries to key personnel. Something had to change and quick.
Hill was fired 18 games into that season and general manager Greg Popovich took over. With the third-worst record in the league, the Spurs won the NBA’s draft lottery and gained the first pick in the 1997 draft.
THE TURNING POINT
The Spurs selected Tim Duncan from Wake Forest University, a draft pick that would transform the entire organisation.
Duncan hit the ground running, averaging 21 points and 12 rebounds and was named First Team All-NBA and Rookie of the Year in 1997-98. The Spurs and Popovich, in particular, knew they had something special.
In 1999, thanks in large to the terrific frontcourt partnership with Duncan and David Robinson, the Spurs won their first NBA championship, defeating the New York Knicks and losing just two games in the entire playoff run.
They had finally got over the hump and this was a catalyst for a prolonged period of success.
THE BIG THREE
David Robinson announced at the beginning of the 2002-03 season that it would be his last. The Spurs knew it would be fitting to give their legend a send-off with another championship. They duly obliged, thanks to a number of impressive reinforcements helping them along the way, including two foreign draft picks by the names of Tony Parker from France and Manu Ginobili from Argentina.
Duncan was named MVP, Robinson retired with a championship ring and the Spurs organisation ushered in a new era with Duncan, Ginobili and Parker, who were dubbed ‘the big three’.
They may not have known it at the time, but the trio and coach Popovich began creating a dynasty that would rival the great NBA teams of years gone by.
Championships followed in 2005, 2007 and 2014 and Duncan, Parker and Ginobili became the winningest trio in NBA history.
Despite years of transition and countless role players acquired during their 15 years together as teammates, they have remained the core and the franchise has been competitive every year.
THE SPURS TODAY
Fast-forward to March 26, 2016, 23 years after the takeover by Mr. Holt and the 22 investors, the San Antonio Spurs have established themselves as one of the most successful and best-run organisations in all of professional sports.
They have arguably the best coach and power forward in NBA history. Anytime the word history is used in describing a team, they must be special. The San Antonio Spurs deserve to be considered as such.
From the front office, down to the players, the Spurs are one of the most well-respected organisations in sports for their achievements on the court and their exemplary conduct off the hardwood.
The franchise has set the benchmark in the NBA for how an organisation should be run.
To outline the Spurs' success since the takeover in 1993, they possess the highest winning percentage of any NBA franchise, per the San Antonio Express-News' Dan McCarney, which has continued to soar this year with the team boasting a remarkable 61-11 overall record and a perfect 37-0 at home.
The biggest indictment of how they are viewed came last summer when veteran David West sacrificed a $12.6 million contract to re-sign with the Indiana Pacers and instead opted to sign a one-year deal in San Antonio worth a significantly less $1.4m.
Speaking to Yahoo Sports when he began training camp with the team, West said: "People are talking about what I gave up, but not as much about what I've gained here.
"For me, being a basketball junkie, a guy who studies the game, there's no better environment in the world to learn basketball," West added.
"When you've won five championships and have such history, it's the reason such a calmness that exists here. There's structure. Things are precise. There's work. But it's not suffocating."
West may have been the first player to make a sacrifice to join the Spurs, but among the team, there is a history of sacrifice.
Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and Tim Duncan all took less money to remain on the team for 2015-16 and Tony Parker did so the year before.
As a result, they are once again considered among the favourites for the championship and it is not only because of the big three, but also those who are already prepared to take on the mantle when the now elder statesmen decide to call time on their illustrious careers.
LIFE AFTER DUNCAN
It is likely that Duncan may bring his career to an end at the close of the playoffs. There isn't a major worry in San Antonio though, as Kawhi Leonard has emerged as the face of the franchise and has elevated his game to new heights to show fans and organisation that there will be life after Duncan, Parker and Ginobili.
At the age of 24 and after just four years in the league, Leonard has won an NBA championship, an NBA Finals MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and was finally named an All-Star this year.
His skill, maturity and growth as a player and his quiet and private life outside of basketball are all befitting of a San Antonio Spur and he has been a seamless fit with the team.
Alongside Leonard, another player who will carry the burden of the Texas-based outfit, is Texas-native LaMarcus Aldridge, who opted to return to his home state when he departed the Portland Trail Blazers in free agency last summer.
After being the number one option in Portland, Aldridge had to adjust his game and buy into the team-first approach of the Spurs under Greg Popovich and after almost 10 months, he is thriving in his role.
With Leonard and Aldridge, the team have another foundation in which to build upon for further success and with Popovich at the helm, they'll always be in good hands.