The Spurs are about to put the cherry on top of their fourth title run in the last 10 seasons. And since there's been little else to talk about during these Finals (did anyone not from Cleveland really think the LeBrons had a chance?) other than how awful they've been, discussion has turned to whether or not this title allows San Antonio to qualify as a dynasty. Some say yes, and I would agree. They're not the flashiest dynasty in the history of the game (they are, after all, the Spurs), but in the modern NBA, with the salary cap, luxury tax and free agency, to do what they've done? Four titles to go with year after year of championship relevance? That's good enough for me.
But are they better than the other NBA dynasty of the last 10 years, the Shaq/Kobe Lakers?
Depends on what you mean by better, since there's more than one way to look at it, say two guys who would know. Steve Dilbeck of the Daily News writes that at each team's peak, the Lakers were a superior squad. I agree with Dilbeck that the best Lakers team (probably '00-01) could beat the best San Antonio team (some think it's this year's bunch - I'd have to go back and scour each San Antonio roster), but you can argue, as D-Fish seems to in the Times article linked above, that San Antonio's run is more impressive.
The comparison is a great example of how not all dynasties are created equal. To threepeat is an incredible accomplishment, as is the level of sustained achievement we've witnessed out of San Antonio over the last decade. They also seem to reflect the image of each franchise. White hot intensity, star power, Hollywood drama for the Lakers. Methodical, quiet, some say boring consistency from the Spurs. Don't forget, too, that the Lakers were a very good team for a couple years before and after the championships. It wasn't like they just appeared, won three straight titles, and then, as Mike Tyson might say, faded "into bolivion." And there's no question a winning Lakers team gave a buzz to the NBA that the Spurs can't replicate. It's not their fault, but hey, life is unfair. Points for the Lakers. Then again, San Antonio will soon have one more title in their decade of excellence, and in the end winning is winning ... and isn't that what it's supposed to be about?
It's clear to me they both qualify as dynasties, but despite the additional title, I'm going to give it to the Lakers by a nose. Those teams dominated the league in every way, shape and form, on and off the court. Call it a style and Q rating bonus. But a couple more years of quality play from the Spurs, and I can't see any reason why that won't happen, and the balance will shift for me.
What the debate really does is drive home what the Lakers gave up when they couldn't keep their championship-quality teams together. How many more titles would a fit, motivated Shaq have won with Kobe coming into his prime? Would we even be having this conversation?
Question: This thought just popped in my head. Would the dynamic have changed for the Lakers had they lost a series somewhere in the threepeat? Would it have helped give them a little more perspective? A little more drive to keep things together for a little while longer? Maybe added a fourth or fifth title over six or seven years? Or do you think the breakup would have happened either way (and in this scenario, they'd have just had fewer titles)? Something to think about.