The San Antonio Spurs owe their historic longevity to a great number of factors, but perhaps none looms as large as the continued greatness of stars Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. On Monday night, that trio hit a milestone that helps prove just how amazing they've been in the context of NBA history.
With the Spurs' 122-105 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, the trio of Duncan, Ginobili and Parker achieved its 110th playoff win together. That moves them into a tie with Showtime-era Los Angeles Lakers teammates Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Cooper for the all-time NBA record for playoff wins by a group of three.
The Spurs' trio came together in the 2002-03 season, when Ginobili went to the NBA after a very successful career in Europe. At the time, Duncan was about to win his second-straight MVP award and the 20-year-old Parker was just starting to hone his considerable talents and become a young star. The Spurs won the NBA title that season — the first of three for this group and the second of four in the history of the franchise.
Duncan, Ginobili and Parker achieved these 110 postseason wins in their 12th season together. Over that stretch, the Spurs have never missed the playoffs and lost in the first round three times. The trio of Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar and Cooper won their 110 games from the 1980-89 postseasons, over which the Lakers won five titles and failed to make the NBA Finals just twice. They also hit that mark despite playing several seasons in which the top two teams in a conference received a first-round bye to bypass a best-of-three first round. For the 1984 postseason, the NBA extended the first round to a best-of-five series for all playoff participants. That didn't change until 2003 — the first year these Spurs played together — when the first round became a best-of-seven competition.
Nevertheless, what the Spurs have done is arguably just as impressive, particularly when you consider that Duncan, Parker and Ginobili have been the team's top three scorers for all but their first and most recent two seasons together, and they figure to team up in at least one more postseason. Plus, their careers have occurred over a period of widespread player movement — it's pretty much unheard of for any three teammates to play together in 12 consecutive seasons.
This is not the first time that these two trios of teammates have been seen together in the record books. In March, the Spurs passed those Lakers for most regular-season games played together and moved beyond them for second-most wins, trailing only the Boston Celtics trio of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. If the Spurs team up again in 2014-15, they should be able to grab that record, as well.
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