NBA fans all over the world are watching The Last Dance, a documentary series about the Chicago Bulls dynasty focused specifically on the 1997/98 championship team.
If you could magically create a documentary with unprecedented access, never-before-seen footage, and interviews with the protagonists of one Spurs team in franchise history, which one would you pick?
Mark Barrington: I would do the 2014 team, but start with game 6 of the 2013 Championship series. It’s like ABC’s Wide World of Sports, it’s got the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat but in the reverse order. It’s probably one of the greatest redemption stories in the history of sports. It would be tempting to go further back and look at some of the teams in the 90s, and while I think Rodman is probably the most interesting character in basketball, he’s already been pretty well covered in The Last Dance.
Marilyn Dubinski: I have always been especially fond of the 2003 Championship team. David Robinson was my idol growing up, and watching him go out on top while knowing the future was in good hands was something to behold. YouTube was still two years from being launched back then, so video access to the team was limited to TV interviews, some grainy internet videos here and there (but nothing compared to today), and probably the closest thing we got to behind-the-scenes footage was the championship DVD (which was the best one because it provided the fourth quarter of each series-clinching game, three of which were dramatic, and the other an extremely satisfying blowout of the Lakers). I would love to see more behind-the-scenes footage of that team, following the Admiral around, hearing more from MVP Tim Duncan, and getting to know young Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili better before they were stars.
Bruno Passos: Right when the healing has begun in San Antonio, new franchise faces have emerged, the organization’s sterling reputation has been restored, and the fanbase’s shared psychosis has begun to wear off, I release Klaw’s Out, the definitive account behind Kawhi Leonard’s falling out in San Antonio. Injury and misdiagnosis drama! Access to the players-only meeting in the spring! Uncle Dennis in the Michael Jordan seat, swirling a glass of his spirit of choice, neat! A detailed look at when relations between player and team first soured! Kawhi even talks some!
Jesus Gomez: I’m tempted to go with the ABA-era Spurs led by The Iceman and Captain Late, just because that time period is fascinating, but I’ll instead go with the 96/97 season. David Robinson gets injured and the Spurs shelve him for most of the season. Sean Elliott misses time with tendinitis. Were they actually tanking, as they have been accused of? And as Robinson gets ready to return, Gregg Popovich takes over as coach, displacing Bob Hill, which was more controversial at the time than many people realize. We even have good subplots, like a 37-year-old Dominique Wilkins playing 30 minutes a game and averaging 18 points. It all ends with the selection of Tim Duncan in the 1997 draft and the beginning of a dynasty. I’d watch that.
J.R. Wilco: I love how Mark and Marilyn went with championship seasons, while Bruno and Jesus chose non-title years, and while I’d love to see a deep dive into the 2005 title over the Pistons ... I’ve long had a soft spot in my heart for the 2007-08 campaign that ended in the Conference Finals against the hated Lakers as a hobbled Manu Ginobili couldn’t get the Spurs to a Game 6 back in San Antonio. There are so many stories from those playoffs that I’d like to know more about, beginning with the epic double-overtime win over the Phoenix Suns in the first game of the playoffs that was extended by Tim Duncan’s three pointer and won by Manu’s drive for a layup against Raja Bell. The second round against the New Orleans Hornets went the distance with the home team winning every contest but Game 7, but how much did Tim Duncan’s flu-like symptoms contribute to their returning to San Antonio in an 0-2 hole? When did Manu’s ankle injury occur? How much of their bad start in Game 1 of the WCF against the Lakers was due to the night they had to spend on the tarmac of a New Orleans airport in a chartered airplane that couldn’t fly? Is it true that Manu played the entire Los Angeles series on a left ankle that was swollen to twice its normal size?
But mostly I’d like a documentary on 2007-08 because, at 30 years of age, he was arguably the Spurs’ best player that year, in what might have been his best regular season. He led the team in scoring (20 per game, if you round up from 19.5) and steals. He averaged a career-best 31 minutes a game for a 56-win team that finished just one game behind the Lakers. He played remarkable ball all year, and the Spurs might have finally repeated as champs if his ankle hadn’t failed him.
Finally, 2008 was my first full season reading PtR every day, and early April was when I finally created an account and started commenting. But while there’s a bit of sentiment in the choice ... it’s mostly about Manu.