by Ari Temkin
The Ray Allen shot soaked the net, the NBA Champion Larry O’Brien trophy was wheeled away, and when the dust finally settled, the greatest franchise in professional sports had fallen hard. But the story of the failed championship of the 2012-2013 San Antonio Spurs really begins the year before.
The Western Conference appeared to have made a Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan type of changing of the guard in 2011-2012. The Oklahoma City Thunder, boasting three of the NBA’s top 15 players (all under the age of 23), had dispatched of the older and broken down San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. The Spurs glory days of four championships in nine years were about to give way to Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
Things can change quickly though, especially with a small market team clinging to competitive life, precariously close to the luxury tax threshold. For context, the big market Los Angeles Lakers recently inked a 20-year deal with Time Warner Cable that will net the organization $3 billion in its television deal alone. The Thunder clear around $15 million annually in its current deal with Fox Sports Oklahoma.
The Thunder, wanting to stay underneath the luxury tax, unloaded Harden. They opted instead to keep the cheaper Serge Ibaka. Without Harden, Oklahoma City boasted the top record in the Western Conference, but a devastating knee injury to point guard Russell Westbrook ended their 2013 post season prematurely.
It’s hard to say if any team in the history of sports has come as close to winning a championship as the 2012-2013 San Antonio Spurs.
Read more in the November 2013 issue of S.A. Scene.