Former San Antonio Spurs Comment on Championship Asterisk Ahead of NBA Restart

As the NBA restart draws closer in Orlando, there is some talk of attaching an asterisk to whoever might win the championship. That can stir up powerful emotions for a number of former San Antonio Spurs players and personnel with regards to their 1999 championship run. Among those commenting on the asterisk were former players Avery Johnson and Steve Kerr along with coach Mike Budenholzer. 

Bucks Coach Mike Budenholzer Was Part of Spurs’ 1999 Title Run

In the Spurs’ first scrimmage since arriving in Orlando, they took on the Milwaukee Bucks. Current Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenolzer was previously an assistant coach with San Antonio under Gregg Popovich. With that, he participated in a crazy 1999 championship run which came after a 50-game season due to a lockout.

That particular season also had dire moments where Pop’s brief time as head coach seemed it could end. However, the Spurs endured tough times and through hard work, they turned things around and ultimately won a title.

“We were on the precipice of going off a cliff,” Budenholzer said of the Spurs’ situation in 1999, “but then we won a championship. You couldn’t make up the things that happened. It was a crazy year.”

Along with the Lakers, the Bucks are one of the favorites to win the title this year. Budenholzer’s top star now, MVP frontrunner Giannis Antetokounmpo, doesn’t believe the 2020 title should have an asterisk next to it either.

“This is gonna be the toughest championship you could ever win,” Antetokounmpo said, per ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan.

The restart arrives after the NBA suspended the season back in mid-March due to Utah’s Rudy Gobert testing positive for COVID-19. At times, it was uncertain if a season would resume or finish up. After months of being on hiatus and in isolation, players finally were able to get back to the sport they love, albeit in a contained bubble site in Florida.

Even so, if the restart is able to finish, it will once again be a shortened season similar to the way 1999 was. That still makes some people question the legitimacy of the championship. That talk still haunts and irritates a number of former Spurs players to this day.

Steve Kerr Reveals Why Phil Jackson Attached an Asterisk to San Antonio Spurs’ Title

The man who notoriously put that imaginary asterisk next to the Spurs’ achievement in 1999 was none other than Phil Jackson, another of the greatest coaches of all time.

After six titles with Chicago, Jackson would leave his head coaching job there. In 1999 he famously said of that season, “I’m just glad we stopped one year short of maybe the team’s fullest potential because this year is going to be an asterisk anyway.”

Steve Kerr, now the coach of the Golden State Warriors, knows both Jackson and Gregg Popovich well as he played under both coaches. Kerr was a member of the Spurs teams that won the titles in 1999 and 2003. He also was part of three championships with the Chicago Bulls.

“That’s just Phil,” said Kerr, speaking about his former Bulls coach. “When he first mentioned the asterisk, I just rolled my eyes, because I knew his game.”

“He likes to provoke, to get under people’s skin. He was poking the Spurs because they were a threat,” Kerr added.

Former Spurs point guard Avery Johnson also commented on Jackson’s asterisk, saying, “It completely ignores all the hard work we put in that season.” 

The Spurs would go on to prove they had multiple titles in them. Head coach Gregg Popovich utilized all roster strengths led by the talents of Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, and Kawhi Leonard.

The Spurs are long shots this year. However, many people feel the lengthy layoff and lack of home-court advantage have leveled the playing field. Still, they’ll need to do a lot of work just to get a playoff spot, and then to win it all. Popovich has already indicated the playoff chase isn’t their main goal in Orlando.

Most likely whichever team wins the 2020 title in Orlando will prove they were able to put in a lot of work, persevered through difficulties, and played as a unified team to win an NBA championship. Visit our Spurs news page for more of the latest team and player updates.