San Antonio Spurs' Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili pose after they defeated the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. Photo by Mike Stone, Reuters
SAN ANTONIO -- Ever since they joined forces 12 years ago, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker have been able to put personal goals aside and focus on winning championship rings.
The San Antonio Spurs' Big Three did just that Sunday, collecting their fourth championship together by beating the Miami Heat in five games in the 2014 NBA finals.
Theirs is a legacy that is built on titles and not egos, said Ginobili.
"It's very unique. I don't think it's happened to many teams in history where three players have played together for so long and in a successful manner like this where no one is egotistical and trying to demand things," Ginobili said.
The core group combined for 49 points in game five as the Spurs defeated the Heat 104-87 Sunday at the AT&T Center arena to claim their fifth title in franchise history.
Winningest trio in playoff history
The three became the winningest trio in post-season history these playoffs, and now have 117 playoffs victories.
"They've gotten over themselves. (That) is what we always talk about," said Spurs' coach Gregg Popovich. "It's absolutely not about any one of them, and they know that.
"If you have three people on your team that lead the way in that manner, it's to be enjoyed on a daily basis. So that's probably the first thing I've enjoyed about them. It makes my job so much easier."
Their leader through all the ups and downs since the 2002-03 season has been Duncan, who is also the first player in league history to win championships 15 seasons apart with the same team.
Duncan is 38 years old and Ginobili is 36, so there is a chance one of them might not play next season. But with the depth the Spurs' lineup showed in these finals there is also a good chance they could get back here and go for a fifth title together.
Duncan, who suggested on Saturday that he would be back next season, said he has been feeling more reflective during these playoffs.
"I think the last couple of years, I have really taken a step back and stopped to enjoy what the journey means," said the player, a native of the Virgin Islands.
"I appreciate every game more. I appreciate every accomplishment and everything we get to go through and every experience, knowing it might be the last time I do it."
These playoffs have been especially gratifying for three-time finals MVP Duncan. He recorded the 158th career playoff double in game four to pass Magic Johnson for the most all-time.
And his 30 minutes of playing time in game four allowed him to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most all-time career playoff minutes.
Asked about his accomplishments after game four, the soft-spoken Duncan said he was honored.
"I can appreciate you saying the names and having passed them in anything," he said. "It is an honor to be in that position. But the focus is on winning one more and once that is done I can look back and say 'Hey, that's truly an honor.'"
The French-born, five-time NBA all-star Tony Parker made his debut with the Spurs at age 19.
Parker, now 32, showed all series long that he is still explosive and his ability to get to the basket hasn't diminished.
His presence in the finals however was a bit of a surprise because of his repeated injuries.
The Spurs' guard suffered a hamstring strain in game five of the league quarter-finals against Portland, and did not play the second half of game six of the semi-finals with an ankle problem.
The 2014 finals have given new life to Argentine star Ginobili, who is in his 10th season.
He struggled in last year's playoffs and even talked of retirement after one of the worst seasons of his NBA career.
But the talk didn't last long as the Spurs sixth man eventually signed a two-year, $14-million contract.
And it turned out to be money well spent, as Ginobili averaged 14.5 points and 4.2 assists per game in the regular season, and scored 19 points in the game five clincher on Sunday.
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