The Spurs' 50-game win streak is over

On Tuesday night, the San Antonio Spurs lost to the Los Angeles Clippers. This latest defeat means that even if the Spurs were to go undefeated in their four remaining games, their win total for the season would only reach 49. For the first time in 18 years, the Spurs will not win 50 games.

On Tuesday night, the San Antonio Spurs lost to the Los Angeles Clippers. This latest defeat means that even if the Spurs were to go undefeated in their four remaining games, their win total for the season would only reach 49. For the first time in 18 years, the Spurs will not win 50 games in a season.

In the shortened 1998/99 season, San Antonio was on pace to win 50 games, which they would have reached had there not been a lockout. This means that it really has been 20 years since the Spurs have been under that magic .61 win percentage. The 1996/97 season was the last year San Antonio didn't reach that mark. That was also the year that Gregg Popovich became the head coach and Tim Duncan was drafted. 

The streak is older than many Spurs fans, old enough that were it a human, it could vote or join the military. The last time the Spurs didn't win 50 games, Wilt Chamberlain was alive and Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum, and Frank Ntlikina were each just one-year-old. The world had never seen Lord of the Rings, Finding Nemo, or the Blair Witch ProjectFacebook and iPods did not yet exist and the Twin Towers still stood in New York City. 

50 is an arbitrary number, but it's still a little sad to see this streak end. It's a brutal reminder that the Tim Duncan era is completely and totally over and that the careers of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are coming to a close all too quickly. Even more frightening, it is a none-too-gentle hint that even Pop will not be around forever.

Streaks like this one do not happen in professional sports. Teams rise and fall. Once-great dynasties age and are defeated, and young stars emerge to take their place. It's just the circle of life. 

And yet, for two decades, the Spurs have somehow broken that natural cycle. Their 50-game winning seasons have been up there with death and taxes as things Benjamin Franklin would label as certainties of life. Come hell or high water, they somehow found a way to win. It made us, as fans, begin to delude ourselves: The Spurs' organization is so superior that nothing can slow them down, we assumed. In our minds, a winning season became an inevitability rather than a blessing.

More than anything, this season shows that no team, not even the Spurs, is invincible. Obstacles, like injuries and aging, are bound to happen and no amount of great coaching or winning culture can change that. 

It's also a slice of humble pie, a reminder that Spurs fans are some of the luckiest people on earth. It's sad this streak is ending, but the fact that there was a streak like that in the first place is incredible. In San Antonio, winning basketball has been the norm for two decades, and that is simply amazing. It's wonderful to never have to watch a tankathon and always be confident that your team has the chance to make a playoff run. 

The Spurs winning really should have ended as Tim Duncan got older. Success should diminish once that franchise player reaches the twilight of his career, like the way the Lakers headed to the lottery in Kobe Bryant's final years. Instead, the Spurs kept plugging along, even winning a championship when Duncan was 38-years-old. Last year, in their first season without Duncan, they still made it to the Western Conference Finals. 

Even this year, in the Spurs' worst season in 20 years, there's not a ton to complain about. They are still in the playoff race and will win at least 45 games. Despite the fact that they have gone without their franchise player, Kawhi Leonard, for all but nine games, the season has not been a bust. The future is bright with Dejounte Murray's and Kyle Anderson's continued improvement, and LaMarcus Aldridge has finally become the player he was in Portland. 

As strange as it sounds, the end of the Spurs' 50-game win streak should be a cause for celebration, not mourning. It has been spectacular to watch and Spurs fans have been so blessed to witness something that likely will never happen again. It's a testament to the resilience and intelligence of the organization to have a multigenerational success that does not die with the aging of a franchise player. 

The streak is over, and of course, it's a little sad. Endings are always sad; that's just their nature. So let's look back at the beautiful start of the Spurs' story, at the many joyful moments in the middle, and the wonderful people that were apart of that journey. Once we've drunk our fill of nostalgia, let's look to another beginning. Another era has begun for the Spurs, a new story that will be filled with great victories, heartbreaking losses, and a cast of interesting characters. 

Yes, a new story has begun, and I can't wait to see what happens next. 

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