This is a test, Spurs fans. This is only a test. But it's a HUUUGE test.
So get ready.
Will you turn out to watch a team without any of the Big Three? Or will you wait for somebody like Manu to grab your attention and your heart?
I bring it up as we're feeling all nostalgic on Manu Ginobili Day, thanking him for being one of the many who have spoiled us as fans for so many years. Do you realize that since Manu first came to the Spurs - and actually for several years before that - the Spurs have always made the playoffs. For 20 years!
FIRST, REMEMBER THIS
But if you're old enough, you just might remember not only when the Spurs did NOT make the playoffs, but also the times when the franchise might have left San Antonio.
Oh, and by the way, most fans don't realize that San Antonio was only able to steal a team away from Dallas because it was really, REALLY bad. You see, the franchise was born in 1967 as the Dallas Chapparrals of the American Basketball Association (ABA). They were OK at first, then just so-so. And by 1973 they were so bad that in their final home game in Dallas that spring, the paid attendance was recorded as 134. Yes, 134.
But after Red McCombs, Angelo Drossos and others bought the team, moved it to San Antonio, and re-named it the Spurs, things changed.
By November of 1973, the Spurs recorded their first sellout in the old Hemisfair Arena, packing it with more than 10-thousand fans. Later that season, a young George Gervin joined the team and for about 25 years we had some pretty good and not-that-good teams.
And sometimes very cheap to watch. I remember back in the early 1980's when you could get a couple of tickets in the nosebleed section, with a couple of hot dogs and drinks for just a few bucks.
When the Spurs were looking good, hardcore fans would accuse those who were only starting to pay attention of just jumping on the bandwagon. With the bandwagons never lasting very long. And there were times that it seriously looked like the Spurs franchise might be packing up and heading out of San Antonio.
SAVED BY THE DOME! AND THE AT&T CENTER!
But in the early 1990's, building the Alamodome gave the Spurs a bigger home, guaranteeing they would stay here for at least a few more years. Then about a decade later, building the AT&T Center, giving the team a better home that would help them compete financially against teams around the league with new arenas.
And then mainly, it's been winning. Winning five NBA Championships with the likes of David Robinson, Avery Johnson, Sean Elliott and the Big Three (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili) - that has kept us spoiled. It's kept attendance high, kept interest up, kept the team here and led us to believe they will never leave.
But as Manu hangs it up, let's also remember those who were never part of the Big Three. And who are still here. Like LaMarcus Aldridge. You could argue he was the one Spur who guaranteed we got into the playoffs last year. And we hope he'll do the same this year.
Finally, how about the 4th member of the Big Three? Yes, you could call Coach Gregg Popovich the real glue or the ringmaster who kept everything working. During a playoff run a couple of years ago, he was also referred to as the 'Notorious Big Poppa' on a T-Shirt prominently sold on streetcorners near you. And me.
Well this year, Big Poppa, LaMarcus, and the rest of the Spurs could use our help more than ever. Some 'experts' predict the Spurs won't make the playoffs. So Spurs fans, this IS a real test. And a really, really big one. Will we look back, miss the special bond we had with the 'Big Three' and just wait until there's a real bandwagon to jump on?Or will we give it 110 percent and come to play (or cheer), no matter what? Manu or Not? Will we show up and support our team? His team?
Let me know on my Facebook page.
And Manu- muchas gracias por todo!