A presidential perspective on Tim Duncan’s fifth championship


The San Antonio Spurs’ fifth championship meant the most to Tim Duncan, he said so himself. The championship means the Spurs are now one ring behind the Chicago Bulls for third-most franchise titles in league history (the Miami Heat would’ve tied San Antonio for fourth had they completed the three-peat).

The win also put Duncan in a rare place historically.

Two stats were flying around pretty quickly once the Spurs won Sunday night. The 15 years between Duncan’s first title and most recent is second to only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (17 years). Duncan is also one of two players to ever win titles in three different decades, with John Salley being the other.

Taking that a step further, since the Ronald Reagan administration when title teams started routinely making White House visits, Duncan joins only Horace Grant and John Salley as the only players in NBA history to win a title during three different presidential administrations. Duncan was the only one of those three players to start on all of those title teams.

Winning a title during three different administrations is so rare, only seven players total from the NBA, MLB and NFL have accomplished this task. None are from the NFL, which speaks to that league’s parity and the shorter window players have.

In baseball, you would think the number would be higher given the fact that players–relief pitchers and designated hitters, specifically–can routinely have 15-year careers. Still, only four players, all from the same team (Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees), won championships during three different administrations.

We knew this title was special, we know how unique Tim Duncan’s career has been, but this list should show help us understand just how rare it is what Duncan and the Spurs have done. In addition to being one of three NBA players to win three titles during three Presidential tenures, Duncan is also the only one to do it with the same team. Grant played for the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers while Salley was with the Detroit Pistons, then Bulls and Lakers.

Just another example that this Duncan/Popovich run is one hell of a thing.

  • Andrew

    The word you’re looking for is parity, not parody :)

  • Trevor Zickgraf

    How do you know that wasn’t an abstract critique of the current state of the National Football League, Andrew??? Just kidding. Thanks for catching that. Fixed.

  • DorieStreet

    @ Trevor: I’m so glad you mentioned that the Spurs’ achievement Sunday night kept the franchise in third place for NBA titles. I SO DID NOT WANT the Heat to tie with four championships apiece.
    (Thank you Dallas Mavericks for avenging your hijacked title in 2006 by winning in 2011.
    MIA should really be 1-3 in the Finals – and that Guy who wore 23/then switched to 6 should have a record of 1-4 in the championship round.)

  • Ryan McShane

    You can also caveat the “players who have won in three different decades” with “who were also starters”. I think Stuart Scott said that during the on-stage celebration after game 5.

  • Joseph

    Great article, Trevor. Still, it misses on one particular point: Presumably, only *three* occurrences have ever taken place, not seven. As astounding as the notion that the lengthy history of the World Series has seen it happen for only four players, if those four players are the ones you mentioned — then it’s actually *never* happened in WS history. The Yankee quartet won in ’96, ’98, ’99, and 2000 (Clinton); *lost* in ’01 and ’03 (W); and then won in ’09 (Obama). So there was no bridge between the Clinton-era championships and the title under the current administration. Nonetheless, I enjoyed discovering here how rare this all was in the first place — thanks for posting!!!

  • Trevor Zickgraf

    Good catch Joseph, I got my election year/took office years mixed up.

  • John T.

    Incredible accomplishment when put in perspective. I remember at the end of the Portland series when Kevin Harlan, the TNT broadcaster, closed game five with a picture of his son on his first day of school in 1999, followed by a present day picture of him going on his last day of school before graduating. It is incredible to think that an entire generation of kids in America went through their school years in the span Duncan collected his five titles.

  • Sideswipe50

    Slightly different topic, but I haven’t heard anyone say anything about Lebron’s record in the Finals against the Spurs, which happens to be 5 W & 12 L.