While Popovich won five championships, a major achievement, his most recent championship is his most impressive. Why? Because of what preceded it. The Spurs lost the 2013 NBA Finals in a crushing fashion, and it seemed unlikely they would be back after the stars lined up to get them there. They did, of course, but it wasn’t exactly a cakewalk.
Popovich has struggled with injury after injury, including having five players in rotation simultaneously at one point. He responded by digging deep into his bench and plugging and playing, even calling G League players and signing free agents, even getting them started. Spurs would go on to win 62 games and become known for their “beautiful play” of reading and reacting attack, as well as their stingy defence.
Nonetheless, they were tested by the Dallas Mavericks and the Oklahoma City Thunder but overcame both hurdles en route to the NBA Finals. There they needed only five games to avenge the previous year’s loss to the Miami Heat, securing the Spurs their fifth championship with Popovich as coach. It’s all the more remarkable considering it’s earned him a title in three different decades, the only manager to ever do so.
All in all, Popovich becoming the winningest coach in the NBA is the icing on the cake of his storied career. To have his name cemented in the record books in this way is important to his legacy.
The fact that Popovich made all that money with one team is unlike most other coaches on the all-time win list. Ultimately, this ranks as his most impressive achievement of all time.