First championship was the best: KSAT's Greg Simmons remembers Spurs '99 title

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

SAN ANTONIO – Twenty years have passed since the Spurs captured their first NBA Championship. The year was 1999.

I was 43 years old and I was experiencing something in San Antonio I had never experienced before since I began covering the Spurs in 1974.

It began with the lockout that finally ended that January, allowing for a 50-game shortened season that would contain three games in three nights on more than one occasion to try to get the NBA Finals in before the end of June. It was uncharted territory for all of us.

KSAT-TV had the local broadcast rights at the time and we had already done 26 regular season games before the playoffs began.

Sometimes I was doing play-by-play, other nights analyst and then in other games sideline reporter. It just depended on the job that had to be done.

I can remember one night on the last leg of back-to-back to back games we were in Sacramento.

I had just picked up my room key with the rest of the team and made it all the way to the elevator only to have to get off and return to the desk. 

Sadly, I had already forgotten the room number and even the floor on which it was located for that matter.

We were all going through it and I can only imagine what it was like for the players who had to perform at that level three nights in a row. 

You could not have written a better script. Sean Elliott’s signature Memorial Day Miracle helped propel the Spurs into their first NBA Finals that would be played out in the biggest media market in the country -- New York City -- inside the most storied arena in the NBA -- Madison Square Garden -- against the Knicks.

None of us ever thought this would end in five games.

I can still remember operating out of satellite truck outside of MSG with an ABC network engineer with a thick New York accent.

He was a blast to work with his favorite saying, "Bada Bing, Bada Boom," at the end of every successful live shot.

I can remember standing in Times Square and just a little off the curb when a motorcycle pulled alongside me. When I glanced at the driver it was Matthew Broderick. That’s right Ferris Bueller.

He was nice enough to say "hi" back to San Antonio before popping the clutch on his way to his Broadway performance. 

Things seemed to be going well with the 5 p.m. newscast down that afternoon and the 6 p.m. to go when a phone call from the station inquired if we were ready to feed our package for the newscast.

Package is the industry term for a story. At that point, photographer Mark Mendez and I were unaware we were the lead story for the 6 p.m. live from New York and it was 5:40 p.m. San Antonio time.

I grabbed Mark and we ran out into the front of Madison Square Garden to see what we could turn in just a matter of minutes.

Low and behold, there was a lone Spurs fan wearing a Spurs jersey standing in front of MSG getting all kinds of looks and comments from New Yorkers. Quick, give me the mic. 

We interviewed the young Spurs fan quickly, and then mic'ed him up to hear some of the hilarious comments and off we went.

We ran back to the truck and somehow turned a package in time to make the lead.

I still don’t know how we pulled that one off, but "Bada Bing Bada Boom."

By the way, that young Spurs fan is now an anchor for Spectrum News out of Austin named Victor Diaz. 

This all leads up to Game 5 where the Spurs were behind down the stretch and I thought we were headed to Game 6.

On the way down from the media area, which was high above the court, I was unaware that the Spurs had closed the gap and when I walked out into the arena just off the court, I saw Avery Johnson hit the baseline shot that gave the Spurs the lead.

I was shocked and then even more stunned when Latrell Sprewell missed the last attempt and just like that, the Spurs were NBA Champs.

The next thing I know my photographer and I are on the court interviewing anybody and everyone.

David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Avery Johnson, Sean Elliott. It was surreal.

At one moment, a member of the NBA staff asked me if we were live and I said no since NBC was still live and about to do the trophy presentation.

Somehow we had gotten on the court before the ropes had gone up courtside trying to keep everyone else out.

My run soon came to an end during the celebration after several folks pointed out I was the only local media being allowed to interview the players as that point.

No problem, we had gotten what we came for. Now it was time to feed all of the interviews while the ceremonies continued. 

My fellow sportscaster at the time was Greg Matson, who had the locker room assignment while I was just above courtside to cover the celebration live from New York and San Antonio.  It would go on for hours.

I can still remember having Johnson alongside me when we were both told that Spurs fans had stopped on Highway 281 and turned the highway into a parking lot to celebrate what would be the first of five NBA titles in the Spurs dynasty.

The reaction from everyone, coaches, players and fans just had me in awe.

That’s why, for me, the first championship will always be the best.

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