Your Tuesday Spurs history lesson
Because the San Antonio Spurs aren’t a major market team like the Lakers or Knicks, and perhaps because the majority of the team’s success (outside of one Finals appearance and frequent trips to the playoffs) have come more recently, there’s not a lot of literature out there on the history of the silver and black.
That’s changed, however. Veteran NBA writer Jan Hubbard recently wrote a book on the history of the Spurs, and several excerpts were posted over at Sheridan Hoops. Hubbard got some great access to people involved with the team and some great nuggets were unearthed.
Here’s one from each of the excerpts at Sheridan Hoops.
“So I’m watching this little TV, eating a burger and drinking a beer and they get to the pick that was supposed to be us. But it was somebody else. I couldn’t believe it. I was so shocked that I literally dropped my hamburger on the ground.”
They knew of successful businessmen Angelo Drossos and B.J. “Red” McCombs in San Antonio and approached them with a unique offer to lease the team for three years. Drossos and McCombs would have an option to purchase the team at the end of the lease, but the most enticing part of the offer was the amount of the lease.
Why so cheap? In the words of one of the Dallas owners at the time, “We didn’t want that sucker back.”
- The unusual circumstances surrounding how George Gervin came to be a San Antonio Spur:
Drossos, who died in 1997, told Pluto in “Loose Balls” that the deal was probably the most unusual ever made. The American Basketball Association All-Star game was going to be played in Norfolk, Virginia, and Foreman did not want fans to boycott the game when they found out he had traded Gervin. So Drossos told Foreman the Spurs would make the deal for $225,000 and pay the money immediately. But the trade would not be effective until after the All-Star game, which was several weeks away.
That was only a small part of an intriguing story that was straight out of a spy novel.
“The owner [Foreman] said, ‘I’ve got to have cash,’” McCombs said in a recent interview. “So we call Frost Bank [in San Antonio] and tell them ‘you gotta get a guy and take this cash to National Airport in Washington, D.C., and go to a [designated] phone booth.’ And we’d been given the instructions as to how we had to deliver the money. [The courier was told] ‘wait for that phone to ring and when it does, the guy’s going to tell you where to go next.’ So it was really like a CIA kind of a program.”
- Tony Parker’s first lackluster workout for the Spurs ahead of the 2001 draft:
Spurs coaches and scouts were split on Parker, so they were curious to see how he played in a one-on-one matchup with Lance Blanks, then a front office employee with the team. Blanks had played three years in the NBA and despite being 34 and retired, he relished competition.
With Parker suffering an acute case of jet lag, the 6-foot-4, 190-pound Blanks simply embarrassed him in the workout. Afterwards, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich spared no words with Parker and his agent. “I told both of them that he’s too soft and I’m looking for someone with more fiber and grit,” Popovich said. “He was nonchalant, like he was in a café outside of Momart in Paris having a glass of wine and a croissant. It didn’t seem to matter to him any more than that.”
- Drafting Manu Ginobili with the second-to-the-last pick in the 1999 draft:
The perfect ending for Robinson coincided with an uneven start by Ginobili, who quickly became a fan favorite and a Popovich irritant for his wild and crazy antics. Ginobili had been drafted in 1999 after the Spurs’ first title, but they were hardly excited about the pick. They had a chance, in fact, to get him with a second-round pick, No. 40 overall. Instead, that pick was used to draft Croatian guard Gordan Giricek, who played for five teams and had a career average of 9.6 points in six seasons.
“Everybody thinks we are so smart for taking Manu with a late second-round pick,” [general manager R.C.] Buford said. “If we were that smart, we would have taken him instead of Gordon Giricek.”
There’s plenty of stories for Spurs fans to enjoy just on Hubbard’s posts on Sheridan Hoops, but you’ll probably want to go ahead and buy the book as well.