'Admiral' Rides Out On Spurs Win

San Antonio Spurs player Tim Duncan, center, celebrates with teammates Steve Smith, left, and Kevin Willis after the Spurs beat the New Jersey Nets, 88-77, to win the NBA Championship in San Antonio, Sunday, June 15, 2003. AP

Somewhere between the court and the locker room, Tim Duncan got hold of his wife's video camera.

The NBA's most dominant player was drenched with sweat and champagne from the defining game of his career to date, but he had one more task to complete, one more moment to capture.

"Dayyy-vid Robinson!" Duncan shouted, pointing the camera at the smiling man coming up the hallway one last time.

Robinson's grin grew even wider.

"You know what you still are, don't you?" he asked. "Young fella!"

For six years, the San Antonio Spurs have been led by this matchless duo of easygoing big men. Their partnership produced hundreds of victories, a legacy of class and grace - and now, two championships.

Duncan carried the Spurs to their second league title with an 88-77 victory over the New Jersey Nets in Game 6 of the NBA Finals Sunday night. With 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and eight blocked shots, he easily captured his second finals MVP award.

And Robinson, who's never had a problem sharing his success, roared into retirement with 13 points and 17 rebounds, playing a key role in his final victory.

"My last game, streamers flying, world champions," Robinson said. "How can you write a better script than this? It's unbelievable. I'm going to end my career on the highest of highs."

Robinson and Duncan hugged on the bench as the final seconds ticked away, and they hugged again as confetti poured from the rafters and their families celebrated with them.

"For a second there on the court, the last couple of seconds, I really thought, 'You know what? I'm not going to play with this guy again,"' Duncan said. "'I'm going to have to come out on this court without him.' It's going to be weird."

San Antonio trailed for most of Game 6 before embarking on an overpowering five-minute stretch of the fourth quarter. With 19 straight points, the Spurs left no doubt about their worthiness to be called champions despite an NBA Finals dampened by mistakes and ineptitude from both teams.

"I'm just thrilled that David ends his career with a game like that," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "I'm happy for this whole team. ... It's an eclectic group. They are all the strangest backgrounds you can imagine, both individually and basketball-wise.

"There is one common thread: They're all very competitive."

Well-traveled guard Stephen Jackson shook off a horrible series to score 17 points, including three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Backup point guard Speedy Claxton scored 13 points and led the fourth-quarter charge, and emerging Argentine star Manu Ginobili added 11 points.

The Spurs' locker room was a madhouse from the moment Kevin Willis entered, clutching the trophy above his head.

"It was light. Everything feels light," Willis said. "All the love I have for the game, and all the work it took to get here, it was worth it."

After 19 NBA seasons, Willis won his first title. So did Danny Ferry, a 13-year veteran, and 12-year pro Steve Smith. Steve Kerr added a fifth ring to his collection.

The Spurs' youngsters also helped the celebration along. Tony Parker got his turn with the trophy - and along with his brother and girlfriend, sang a rousing chorus of "We Are the Champions" in French.

Jason Kidd had 21 points and seven assists for the Nets, who played three outstanding quarters, but were simply overwhelmed by San Antonio's late surge. New Jersey shot another poor percentage (34.5), including a 3-of-23 effort from leading playoff scorer Kenyon Martin.

"I thought it all started on the defensive end with them," said New Jersey coach Byron Scott after losing his second straight trip to the finals. "They really started being a bit more physical, and we got out of our flow. We started rushing shots, and we started taking bad shots."

Scott was criticized last season for pulling his starters in the final minute of the Lakers' final victory while it was still a close game. His moves in the fourth quarter of Game 6 were even more debatable.

Kerry Kittles, who had 16 points, and Richard Jefferson were stuck on the bench while struggling reserves Lucious Harris and Rodney Rogers played during San Antonio's overwhelming run. The Nets didn't have the skill or the personnel to counteract the most dominant stretch of play by either team in this mistake-filled series.

It was the fifth straight NBA title for a Western Conference team, and the second straight disappointing finish for the Nets, whose recent efforts have only underlined the West's superiority.

At least Kidd had a strong game - one that might further impress the Spurs, who are expected to pursue the free agent this summer.

"I've got a lot to think about," Kidd said. "The door's open, and I've got to play my free agency out. I would love to be a Net, but I've got to look at all my options."

But on Sunday night, the Spurs weren't thinking beyond the present. Bruce Bowen, wearing a net around his neck, interrupted an interview for Jackson - who responded by pouring champagne over Bowen's head. At the same moment in the hallway, Duncan wistfully videotaped Robinson's final moments as a player.

"Normally, I don't drink champagne," Robinson said. "I wear champagne."


By Greg Beacham By Greg Beacham
  • Francie Grace

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