The Spurs' fifteen years of putting up 50

Tom Pennington

The Spurs secured their 15th straight 50-win season against the Jazz on Sunday night. 50 is an arbitrary number and it doesn't mean much to a franchise that only really cares about championships. Even so, 15 years is wholly remarkable and we should take a minute to appreciate just what it represents about our team.

Let's start this by acknowledging that the Spurs' 37-13 mark in the lockout-shortened 1999 season that only had 50 games represents 61 wins in a full 82-game season. The previous season the Spurs won 56 games. So it's 17-straight seasons with the equivalent of at least 50 wins.That's just to get it out of the way because it doesn't really matter if it's 17 or 15, because either way, it's by far the longest streak of its kind.

15 years. Think about where you were and what you were doing 15 years ago. It's a sizable chunk of any human life. It's longer than most dogs live. There are 30 million more people in the US than there were when the streak started and 200,000 more people call San Antonio home.

The streak is truly impressive. The league's next closest streak is 11 seasons. The Dallas Mavericks put that run together from the 2000-2001 season to the 2010-2011 season. Since then they have been mediocre and they even missed the playoffs last year. The Spurs' streak is 37% longer than the second-best.

If this is the final year of the Spurs record, it will be 2028 before anyone can hope to break their record. That is completely absurd. The lockout shortened 2011-2012 season only had 66 games in it and the Spurs and Bulls were the only two teams to win 50 games that season. Besides the Spurs' streak, the longest active streak is shared by 6 teams and sits at 1. Tony and Manu don't know what it's like to win less than 50 games in a season.

We all want a championship. It's tough to find success in the regular season. It is far too easy to take for granted the continued excellence the Spurs have sustained during the grind of the regular season, especially when all of these games are really just a prelude for the playoffs. But that's one of the great things about this team in the Tim Duncan Era. We've never considered the Spurs not making the playoffs. We just assume that the team will go out night after night and pull out wins. It's not an easy thing to do to rack up wins in the NBA, just ask the Knicks or the Cavs.

The streak includes 1198 games right now. It spans about 58,000 minutes of game time. It represents the workmanlike nature of the team. Go out there, take care of your business tonight, and then get ready for the next one. It's that -- 1200 times in a row. The mental discipline needed to grind out a game in Milwaukee at the end of a long road-trip on a cold February night is impossible to measure, but it's clear that the identity of this team is capable of no other way. It's business as usual, play after play, night after night, and year after year. Strive for your best, keep improving, keep pounding the rock.

ESPN was recently promoting San Antonio as "The eternally elite Spurs."  I thought that was a pretty good way of putting it. The Spurs are an institution, a program that can just be penciled in to contend, and it's been like that for a really long time.

It's nothing like a championship and I'm sure it doesn't mean much of anything to Tim or Pop, but the streak is a testament and a reminder of just how long the Spurs have been elite. Just how much longer it is than the second closest streak shows how truly unique it is that this team has sustained success for so long in a league that is constantly changing, where the powers shift frequently.

The streak has seen so much; The Baby Bulls, The Seven Seconds or Less Suns, The Thuggets, The Wallaces/Billups/Prince/Hamilton Pistons, Shaq and Kobe, Kobe and Gasol, The Big-Three Era in Boston, Chris Paul's Hornets, Garnett's Wolves, Artest/Jackson and the Pacers, Shaq and Wade's Heat, Jordan's Wizards, Jordan's Bobcats, the end of Stockton/Malone, Nellie's Warriors, Weber's Kings, and LeBron's Cavs. All of those came and went and the Spurs have kept on winning. Not even a 66-game season could keep them from putting up 50.

Who knows, the streak could very well outlast the Miami Big-Three. Maybe it'll never end and outlast us all.

It's a record that more than likely will never be broken, and in that sense it is one of the great streaks in the history of sports. We've been lucky to have cheered for the good guys through it all.

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