Following a tough game six loss in a series reminiscent of a similar Oklahoma City Thunder versus San Antonio Spurs matchup that ended the same way in 2012, I’m as sad as I’ve ever been after a Spurs’ playoff loss.
Thinking back, I have memories from Spurs’ losses in various series and the place and setting of wherever I was when they happened. In 2002, the Spurs lost to the Lakers in the second round. I remember drawing my poster of the turquoise, pink, and orange logo through tear-filled 10-year-old eyes as the final buzzer went off and I thought to myself, “David Robinson has to win again before retiring.”
The next year, I watched every single game from start to finish. I recorded the games to go back and watch them over again in order to analyze my team. I still have those VHS tapes. I made countless posters and collected newspapers, reading every word written about my team. I made a scrapbook binder with memorable moments in each game. I got my first jersey, David Robinson, for my birthday that year after begging my parents for years.
2004, following the 0.4 Derek Fisher game-winner in the second-round series against a Lakers team that beat us one game later, I remember playing basketball in my back yard with tears streaming down my face as thunder roared and lightning flashed in the cloudy night sky. I hated the idea that we’d lose to the Lakers again, just one year after being World Champions.
2006, after losing against a Dirk Nowitzki-led Mavericks right as my sister opened her high school graduation presents, I was crying yet again.
Of all the playoff loss memories, the worst was losing in the finals in 2013. I had nightmares until we were given the ultimate rematch and a world championship the following year.
Of course, I also have so many wonderful memories, the championship runs, the game-winning shots, the draft selections, the comebacks, and all the memories that aren’t so generic.
When I think of the Spurs, I think of Sunday’s at my grandparents’ after Mass. I think of 4-year-old Vickie asking which team on the 13-inch television was the Spurs. I think of crying for hours as my older sister went to a game and left me to watch from home. I think of my first Spurs game at the Alamodome, drenched in freezing rainwater on a cold October night in the nosebleeds eating warm nachos. I had anticipated that game for weeks and nothing, not even the fact that the guys looked like little ants, could bring me down. I think of the last game I went to at the Alamodome, buying my plush Coyote, and waiting outside the dome to see every last player drive out of the lot. I think of watching every Spurs’ Championship game at my grandparents’ house. I think of losing my voice and getting lightheaded from screaming at home, at my grandparents’, or at the AT&T Center while cheering on my guys whether they were 20 ahead or overcoming a huge deficit.
I remember Tim’s rookie season and my mom saying, “Duncan’s going to be a big thing.” I remember watching the 1999 lockout year and championship run in our den. Memories of me and my sister reenacting the Memorial Day Miracle fill my mind. The area rug was a perfect inbound area, and our tiptoeing feet along the edge of the rug with our heels over the edge allowed us to relive the excitement of the actual event over and over again.
During hard times, the Spurs were my refuge. They were my escape from the realities and fearful occurrences of the world in a time when the words “war” and “terrorism” were a part of daily conversation. I watched the games because they were safe and fun. When I was sad, scared, or anxious, watching a game took me away and suddenly, the most I had to worry about was for our guys to bring home a win.
I was, and still am, the biggest fan. As kids, my sister and I knew the form of every Spurs player’s shot and we’d imitate them with our door basketball hoop and ball. We played “Spurs games” instead of “house.” I learned the signals for various plays and could call them out before they ran them. I would strategize what Popovich was going to call, what play they would run, or which player would take the game-winning shot.
A lot of people are saying this could be the end of the Spurs as we know them. I hope they’re wrong. The Spurs are my Spurs because of Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. I’ve grown up with a Spurs team that had Gregg Popovich as a coach. I had just finished kindergarten when we acquired Tim Duncan. I remember the draft when we got the 19-year-old “little French guy.” Then, a year later, the injured Argentine, who only played the second half of the season, joined us and helped us to our second title. I saw this team become what it is now. The winningest trio was put together and molded from three men that no one knew would become so iconic and important to the NBA and the world of sports altogether.
How did it happen so fast? Wasn’t it just the other day that my parents bought me and my sisters oversized 1999 Championship shirts so we could “grow into” them? (I still wear mine, by the way). Didn’t Tim Duncan just win his second MVP award? The 19 seasons played by the best power forward of all time are not nearly enough! I know it’s selfish, but I wish that Tim, Tony, and Manu would play well into their 40s with the Spurs. It’s unrealistic and downright ain’t gonna happen. I know.
Last night, when the Spurs were down by nearly 30 points, I became very sad. Images of Manu threes, lighting-speed Tony, and consistent bank-shooting Tim flashed like videos in my mind. The guys made a huge effort and my heart leapt when they came within 11 points. As they had a chance to bring the lead under 10, I flashed back to the Big Three of old and some of the most epic comebacks in Spurs history. I felt certain they’d pull through. I was 10-year-old Vickie, once again. The stresses and complications of my grownup life disappeared and for a moment, anything seemed possible, especially for my Spurs. The excitement of the game was the most beautiful feeling and I believed with my whole heart that we’d hear “We Are the Champions” in June for this team of which I’m always so proud to be a fan.
The Spurs are more to me than a professional basketball team. I don’t know exactly how to describe my sentiments toward the franchise, but they’re my team. They go hand-in-hand with family and love. The Spurs make me proud. They give me joy. They’ve been my escape and my pastime for as long as I can remember. My desire to become a sports journalist stems from my love for the Spurs and basketball. The happiness they bring me is something I’ll always cherish. When the time comes, when the end of the Big Three finally arrives, it will truly be the end of an era. It’ll be hard, and I’ll be truly heartbroken. Still, one thing will remain forever and always, the Spurs will go on and I’ll be there. Though the Spurs of my childhood will have moved on, I’ll cheer on new faces and new styles of play. I’ll embrace what we become and I’ll always love this team.
No matter what, the Big Three will always hold a special place in my heart. I’m so lucky to have been a fan while they were part of this team. I’ll always remember how epic they made the game. I believe that they’ll always be my favorite era of Spurs basketball and I don’t know if I’ll ever care as much about seeing any other guys win as I have seeing Tim, Manu, and Tony. I’ll always want my Spurs as champions, and I’ll always support this team, but the Big Three mean something entirely different to me. I take pride in them like they’re my big brothers. I connect to them because they were a constant in my entire childhood and youth. They’re more than just players. They’re MY Spurs!