The San Antonio Spurs celebrated their 2014 NBA championship victory with a rolling parade down the San Antonio River on Wednesday evening, an outpouring of affection for everyone involved in exorcising the demons of the 2013 Finals loss to the Miami Heat and returning the league championship to San Antonio for the fifth time in 15 years.
Everyone from this year's players and coaches to former Spurs champs (like David Robinson, Avery Johnson, Malik Rose and Antonio Daniels), local officials, team personnel and more rode down the river in the celebration. Here is a brief collection of images from the parade via the Associated Press, who helpfully isolated Spurs color commentator Sean Elliott yelling, "AUSTIN DAYE!"
Ah, but there was another highlight in there. What was head coach Gregg Popovich doing again?
Ah, Pop. Hey, if you've earned the ringzzz, you may as well count 'em.
(There are those, of course, who see Pop's counting as an indirect dig at LeBron James' famed "Not one, not two, not three ..." countdown from the Miami Heat's free-agent signing celebration way back in the summer of 2010. I'm not sure that's true, especially given the amount of respect Pop has shown himself to have for LeBron time and again over the years, but sure, whatever, have fun, gang.)
Tony Parker, flanked by longtime pal and first-time champion Boris Diaw, opened things up by testing the sound system:
It's just a shame that he didn't choose to check the mic with a few bars from one of his dope singles, like "Premier Love."
The great Tim Duncan rode with Game 5 hero Patty Mills and his Australian countryman, Aron Baynes. The surefire Hall of Fame big man declined to give any answers as to whether he plans to return next season before leaving to chants of "ONE MORE YEAR." Spurs color commentator Sean Elliott tried to turn into "TWO MORE YEARS," and was not especially successful in doing so, but we're sure that Duncan appreciated his former teammate's efforts:
Manu Ginobili — perhaps still soaring off his Game 5 posterization of Miami's Chris Bosh — talked (in both English and Spanish) about how sweet it was to redeem himself against the Heat, and how wonderful it felt to share that with a San Antonio fan base that suffered just as much after the 2013 loss. Brazilian big man Tiago Splitter preferred to let his actions — and the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy — do his talking for him:
The crowd showered Kawhi Leonard with "M-V-P" chants, and the 2014 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (and Sports Illustrated cover boy) used his moment in the spotlight to, of all things, accuse another Spur — reserve guard Cory Joseph — of "being shy" before continuing to roll on down the river. Perfect.
Shooting guard Danny Green took the opportunity to celebrate not just that the Spurs won the title and beat the Heat, but "the way we did it," which we can all agree was pretty impressive:
Matt Bonner was holding a baby wearing a tie, which I thought added a touch of class to an affair dominated mostly by T-shirts and snapbacks:
After all the barges had made their way to the Alamodome, the big indoor party commenced, where the Spurs' five O'Brien trophies were rolled out, where Popovich introduced his coaching staff, and where Pop shared some of his now-patented heartfelt public speaking with the assembled masses of Spurs faithful:
"We feel fortunate to be in this city, and to be supported by people like yourselves," Popovich said. "And I just want you to know that we're all going to continue to do everything we can to make you proud of us, no matter what happens. Thank you for being who you are."
The vaunted Big Three was later called upon to share some flowery words about one another, with the emotion of the prose going from evident (Manu) to somewhat reserved (Parker) to mostly-about-making-fun-of-Sean-Elliott (Duncan), as is right and just:
"I appreciate them. I respect them," Ginobili said of Duncan and Parker. "And it's been a true pleasure to play with them for so long, being coached by that guy for so long, and having the opportunity to start my career in this city — 99.875 percent chances that I'm going to end it up here. So: very lucky guy."
"What we have is very special," Parker said. "Like Manu said, we'll have a special bond for life. Us three with Coach Pop is just ... I don't take it for granted. I really appreciate every moment."
And when it was time for the headliner of the evening — the Spurs' 22-year-old phenom, the youngest Finals MVP since Magic Johnson, the man even Pop calls the future face of the franchise — Aussie spark-plug Mills had the honor of introducing him with a pretty amazing Halloween-centered anecdote:
"Kawhi Leonard Superhero." It might have sounded ridiculous at the time, but go ahead and ask the Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, and anyone else in the league whether or not they think the rising-star small forward's on some leap-tall-buildings-in-a-single-bound stuff these days.
From there, it was time for a team photo:
... and for everyone to head home safely, visions of running it back next year dancing in everyone's heads.
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