SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Fans screamed “Go Spurs Go!” in unison at the slightest glimpse of a San Antonio Spurs’ player or coach floating down the River Walk.
It was reminiscent of last season when the Spurs walked off their team charter to those chants, except the tone Wednesday night was much sweeter.
The victory parade for Spurs’ fifth NBA title was part celebration and part exorcism.
“It is soaking in, but I’m still going to live it up for about the whole summer,” NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard said.
“(I haven’t slept) very much. I’ve been trying to live the moment. It’s been hard to sleep still. Thought I would get some sleep after we won the finals, but I’m still celebrating. ‘Go Spurs Go! San Antonio!'”
After falling 25 seconds shy of capturing the title last season only to fall in seven games to the Miami Heat, the Spurs made another run to the NBA Finals. Except this time, they closed out the Heat in five games for the team’s first title since 2007.
“I cried (last year). I think the rest of the city cried, too,” Spurs fan Rosalinda Gonzalez said. “How they lost, that was bad. It made this year’s victory even more sweet, sweet. (And) the way we did it. All the games that we won were by a billion points. It was awesome. Great comeback.”
Given a chance to celebrate what they couldn’t last year, Spurs fans endured 90-degree heat to line the River Walk and stand outside of the Alamodome up to five hours before the festivities began. The City of San Antonio estimated about 100,000 people attended the River Walk parade and more than 60,000 were at the Alamodome.
And the fans soaked up the moment as if it was the city’s first championship.
As fans awaited the team’s arrival at the Alamodome, a replay of Game 5 of the finals was shown on the large video screens. As the game came to an end, the crowd erupted in cheers as if the moment was just happening. The fans booed loudly when a replay was shown of Heat star LeBron James walking off the court and they screamed joyously when Leonard was announced as MVP.
Even usually cantankerous Spurs coach Gregg Popovich fully embraced the moment, smiling and waving at the crowd as the barge he rode on floated along the River Walk. Popovich raised one finger with a puzzled look before counting off two, three, four and nodding his head when he reached five, raising an outstretched hand to symbolize how many titles the franchise has won.
“We owe it all to Pop,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said as his barge made a stop. “He had us playing great basketball at the right time.”
The celebration included former Spurs players David Robinson, Avery Johnson and Malik Rose, all members of the team’s first NBA title in 1999.
The Spurs face an uncertain offseason with up to six possible free agents, but that wasn’t even a consideration for the players or the fans Wednesday. After waiting a year, they all got to exhale and celebrate another title.