The Genesis of the Spurs

by Ari Temkin

It’s difficult to imagine a San Antonio without the Spurs. They are the NBA’s proverbial diamond in the rough. The organization has redefined domination through 16 consecutive playoff appearances and postseason berths in 25 of the last 26 years. Not only have they enjoyed unprecedented organizational success, the Spurs have also meant an incalculable amount to the city of San Antonio. The ways in which the Spurs have helped create exposure and grow San Antonio’s brand will be felt in perpetuity. Basketball’s current popularity in San Antonio is clearly related to the establishment and growth of the Spurs. It’s difficult to truly appreciate the team’s significant on-court successes without noting the incredible odds the Spurs defied in order to achieve them.

In 1999, the Spurs became the first team out of the American Basketball Association (ABA) to win an NBA title, 23 years after the NBA-ABA merger. The path the Spurs took from likely death to champion is a great American success story.

But the story of the San Antonio Spurs begins with American football in Mexico.

A group of investors, led by Red McCombs, were interested in helping to grow the city’s footprint through sports. San Antonio had gotten its first taste of national exposure through the 1968 World’s Fair and was now looking to become a major player in the national sports landscape.

In helping to put on the 1968 World’s Fair, McCombs identified a great cultural change taking place in America—a change that involved the proliferation of professional sports on television.

“The easiest way for any city to get national recognition is through a sports team on television,” said McCombs. “The Fortune 500 companies didn’t know about San Antonio. They knew about Atlanta, San Diego and some of these other smaller markets, strictly because of their professional sports teams, who appeared regularly on national television.”

Read more in the June 2014 issue of S.A. Scene.