The San Antonio Spurs are far and away the most successful of the four ABA teams absorbed by the NBA in 1976. Who are their 25 best players?
Once upon a time, the San Antonio Spurs were the only team in major North American sports named for the bar the owners were meeting in, based on a paper napkin.
Yes, the franchise has come a long way from its beginnings as a charter member of the American Basketball Association.
The original owners were awarded a franchise for Dallas and, while arguing about what to call the team while meeting at the Chaparral Club inside the Sheraton Dallas Hotel, settled the issue by going with the napkin on the table.
The Spurs are also the only ABA team that survived the “regional team” concept that failed miserably in the 1970s.
In 1970, the team renamed itself the Texas Chaparrals—playing home games in Fort Worth and Lubbock before scrapping the idea and going back to their Dallas Chaparrals moniker in 1971.
In 1973, the franchise went rent-to-own. A group of 36 San Antonio businessmen led by Angelo Drossos and Red McCombs leased the Chaparrals and moved them to San Antonio with a three-year option to buy the team.
The Spurs were such a hit in San Antonio that Drossos and McCombs scrapped the lease and bought the team in 1974.
San Antonio was one of four franchises that were admitted to the NBA in 1976 as part of a merger between the rival leagues.
In 1993, a group headed by Peter Holt bought the franchise from McCombs and the group remains in place.
While in Dallas, the Chaparrals split their home games between Moody Coliseum on the Southern Methodist University campus and the Dallas Convention Center.
In San Antonio, the Spurs played at HemisFair Arena from 1973-93 and at the Alamo Dome from 1993-2002 before moving into what was then called the SBC Center in 2002.
Renamed the AT&T Center in 2006, it remains the home of the Spurs.
In 49 seasons—nine in the ABA and 40 in the NBA—the San Antonio franchise is 2,384-1,592, a .600 winning percentage that is second only to the Los Angeles Lakers among the 30 active clubs.
The Spurs had their best regular season in franchise history in 2015-16, going 67-15 for their sixth 60-win season (1994-95, 2002-03, 2005-06, 2010-11 and 2013-14 were the others).
The previous record had been the 63 wins San Antonio got in 2005-06.
The 1996-97 Spurs hit the low-water mark with a 20-62 record. The team was also 21-61 in 1988-89.
San Antonio has five championships, beating the New York Knicks in 1999, the New Jersey Nets in 2003, the Detroit Pistons in 2005, the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2007 and the Miami Heat in 2014. The Spurs also lost to the Heat in the 2013 NBA Finals.
While in the ABA, the Chaparrals and Spurs made the playoffs eight times in nine years, but won just two playoff series—in their first and last years in the league.
There have been 36 playoff appearances in 40 NBA seasons, including their current run of 19 straight years. The franchise has never failed to qualify for the playoffs in consecutive seasons.
The team has had but seven general managers in 48 seasons, with Bob Bass the longest tenured from July 1979 through May 1994.
Current GM R.C. Buford has been on the job since July 2002, when he replaced Gregg Popovich, who had held the position since May 1994. John Bezgos had a five-year run from July 1974 through July 1979, as well.
Buford became the franchise’s first two-time NBA Executive of the Year winner in 2015-16, adding the honor to his win in 2013-14. Other winners have been Drossos (1977-78) and Bass (1989-90).
Jack Ankerson was the ABA Executive of the Year in 1973-74.
Popovich is by far the winningest coach in franchise history, going 1,089-485 in the regular season and 158-98 in the playoffs since taking over from Bob Hill early in the 1996-97 season.
None of the other 17 coaches in franchise history has reached the 200-win mark with the franchise.
Tom Nissalke was named the ABA Coach of the Year in 1971-72 while the franchise was still in Dallas. Popovich is a three-time NBA Coach of the Year recipient (2002-03, 2011-12 and 2013-14).
San Antonio’s only other top-five selection was in 1989, when the Spurs chose third overall.
Here are the 25 best players in the history of the Dallas/Texas Chaparrals and the San Antonio Spurs. Players had to have appeared in 150 games and averaged a minimum of 20 minutes per game for the team to qualify for this list.
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