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This Day In Sports: Pop gets the Spurs to the top again

2007: After the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s, there were the L.A. Lakers in the 2000s and the Golden State Warriors in the 2010s. Woven in there were the Spurs.
Credit: Amy Sancetta/AP File Photo
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich talks to his players during Game 3 of the NBA Finals Tuesday, June 12, 2007, in Cleveland. The Spurs went on to sweep the Cavaliers.

BOISE, Idaho — THIS DAY IN SPORTS…June 14, 2007, 15 years ago today:

With an 83-82 Game 4 victory, the San Antonio Spurs win their fourth NBA championship in nine years with a sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Only one game was decided by double-digits, but there was never any doubt the Spurs would be champs. The MVP of the Finals was not San Antonio legend Tim Duncan, but Tony Parker, who put up 24.5 points per game. Duncan averaged a pedestrian (for him) 18.5 points.

It was the Cavs’ first-ever trip to the Finals — therefore, it was the first for LeBron James as well. Capping his fourth NBA season, the superstar averaged 22.0 points per game to lead the Cavs in the series. But James couldn’t save the TV ratings, which were the lowest in history to that point for an NBA Finals (to be eclipsed by the 2020 Finals that were played in the COVID bubble).

The ratings just demonstrated that the Spurs were underappreciated during their peak years under coach Gregg Popovich. He had the benefit of guiding two NBA greats, David Robinson and Duncan, two players who spent their entire careers with San Antonio. Popovich knows how to motivate. He attended the Air Force Academy, graduating in Soviet Studies while undergoing Air Force intelligence training. Thanks in part to his unique approach to leadership, the Spurs have won a total of five NBA titles under Popovich, the last one in 2014.

Popovich, now 73, just completed his 26th season at the helm in San Antonio. He’s the longest-tenured coach in any major American sport, and he’s the winningest coach in NBA history with 1,344 victories (a mark he reached three months ago). Three years ago Popovich logged his 22nd consecutive winning season, breaking the record held by Phil Jackson. The Spurs, however, have had three losing seasons since. But, lest we forget, Popovich coached Team USA to the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last summer.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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