9 lessons from the Spurs dynasty

From L to R: Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, & Kawhi Leonard. Photo: Michael Herradura

For the first time in my life, the San Antonio Spurs missed the playoffs.

22 straight play-off appearances. 6 NBA Finals. 5 championships.

In the last 20 years, the Spurs have the highest winning percentage in the NBA, & it’s not even close. Their 1,135 wins are nearly 200 more than the 2nd place Mavericks.

Here are 9 lessons to learn from the Spurs as their dynasty ends:

Sometimes you’re unlucky & that’s ok.

Ray Allen drained a 3, beating the Spurs in the 2013 Finals. But the Spurs went back to the Finals in 2014, & this time, finished on top.

Get the basics right.

Tim Duncan, a top 5 NBA player, wasn’t flashy, but could rebound, block, pass, & score. Nickname? “The Big Fundamental”

Then, practice a strength.

Former NBA player Luke Zeller told me Coach Popovich said, “I need you to be the world’s best at 1 thing, not ok at everything.” Think Kobe’s fade-away or Harden’s step-back.

Be adaptable.

The NBA shifted from dominant big men to position-less guards, and the Spurs embraced the change.

Bet on people who are different.

The NBA’s geography makes U.S. prospects “safer” picks, but int’l picks can have more upside. The Spurs found foreign gems like Manu Ginobili & Tony Parker.

Develop talent.

Ginobili at 57? Kawhi at 14? Tony Parker at 28? Finding & developing late draft talent allowed the Spurs to stay relevant for 20+ years. Any team would love to be that “lucky”.

Do the unsexy.

Offense makes SportsCenter highlights, but defense wins championships when shots aren’t falling. For 20+ years, the Spurs were a top-10 defense.

You can’t do it alone.

Never flashy, the Spurs focused on passing, with no one player dominating the spotlight. The Spurs’ “Big Three” may have been the least big of all “Big Threes”.

It’s ok to be underestimated.

A small-market team, the Spurs were often underestimated, but that only hurt the ones who underestimated us.

All 9 of these lessons apply across disciplines and are just as true in business & entrepreneurship as in sports. Which is the most valuable for you?

My childhood was spoiled with 5 NBA championships. But now that we’ve missed the playoffs, it’s still go Spurs!