SAN ANTONIO – Years of frustration and playoff failures came to an end on June 25, 1999, as the San Antonio Spurs won the franchise’s first NBA championship.
Tuesday marks 20 years since the Spurs won the championship by defeating the New York Knicks in the NBA Finals, 4-1.
In only his second season in the league, Tim Duncan was named NBA Finals MVP.
It would be the first of three such honors and five championships overall in the career the Spurs’ future Hall of Fame forward.
Duncan was dominant in the series, averaging 27.4 points, 14 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game.
He shot 53 percent from the field and nearly 80 percent from the free throw line.
It was a memorable championship for Spurs’ Hall of Fame center David Robinson.
Robinson, who was in his 10th NBA season, had taken the brunt of the criticism for previous Spurs' playoff exits.
Robinson was a perfect fit alongside Duncan, as the two formed an iconic defensive duo in the interior.
“The Admiral” averaged 16.6 points, nearly 12 rebounds and three blocks per game in the series.
The signature moment of the Finals was point guard Avery Johnson’s game-winning and series clinching shot in Game 5, which resulted in a 78-77 victory for San Antonio.
Throughout the playoffs, the Spurs got significant contributions from role players on the roster.
Jaren Jackson, Mario Elie and Malik Rose all made key plays and were part of big moments.
But the biggest moment of all was Sean Elliott’s Memorial Day Miracle shot in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals against Portland.
The championship was the first for head coach Gregg Popovich, who was questioned at the beginning of the season when the Spurs started 6-8.
Popovich molded the Spurs into a championship contender after the slow start and has won five titles in his career as Spurs head coach.
NBA Champions San Antonio Spurs', from left, Tim Duncan, Antonio Daniels, Gerard King, Sean Elliott, and Avery Johnson celebrate after defeating the New York Knicks 78-77 in Game 5 of the 1999 NBA Finals Friday, June 25, 1999, at New York's Madison Square Garden. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Hundreds of thousands of fans celebrated on the streets of San Antonio through the night and for the ensuing days at the championship parade
For years, the Spurs had come painfully close to a championship, but the 1999 season vaulted the franchise into a run of success that is nearly unmatched.
Two decades and four more championships later, the Spurs are considered to be a bedrock and cornerstone franchise not only in the NBA, but in all professional sports.