The United States Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs served as the base of operations for the San Antonio Spurs during the 2013 training camp. More than a 13-hour drive from their home, the AT&T Center, the team faced their first day after the worst end to a season one could imagine.
After failing in two previous Conference Finals trips, they made their return to the Finals in 2013 for the first time since they won the championship in 2007. With the same core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs had their sights set on another legacy-shaping moment. Standing in their way were the Miami Heat and the Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh - who also had their sights on adding to their legacies.
Miami and San Antonio gave us one of the most memorable series in the game's history in 2013. Seven games of grit, defence and improbable moments. Moments that shaped the careers of many future Hall of Famers.
Throughout the Spurs training camp, Gregg Popovich used an image from Game 6 of the 2013 Finals as motivation. The low hanging fruit would be to assume it was of Ray Allen's cold-blooded three, arguably the most clutch shot in NBA history. But Popovich posted a specific moment in the third quarter when San Antonio was up by double-digits.
"As the summer wore on, I got angrier and angrier," Popovich told ESPN in 2015. "I wanted to pull the guys back together and appeal to them and challenge them. I wanted to ask them, 'When you are kicked in the gut, how will you respond?'"
San Antonio started the last quarter of Game 6 in the 2013 Finals ahead on the scoreboard, 75-65. They had their fifth title - which would've been a perfect five of five in the Finals - at their fingertips. Even with a furious Miami comeback the Spurs still led by 5 with 28 seconds left in the game. The game seemed all but over and some Heat fans were already heading for the exits before the final buzzer.
If you replayed the end of Game 6 of the 2013 Finals 100 times, the Spurs would've won 99 times, but on this night we witnessed nothing short of a miracle. A game that altered the NBA as we know it today.
Miami's comeback was sparked by a headband-less LeBron and a shoe-less Mike Miller three. Which set the stage for Ray Allen's heroics.
After a LeBron missed 3-pointer on what would have been the final possession of Miami's season, Chris Bosh came up with a huge rebound amongst more traffic than a freeway in Los Angeles. Bosh then had the presence of mind to find Allen, who inched back behind the 3-point line and BANG! Miami ties the game!
"There's no target. I don't aim. If I'm aiming, that's when I'm missing. The way I look at it is, just get the ball in the air. You do it over and over again, you should never have a target," Allen told the Undefeated of the shot.
Just imagine how fast it all happened. The moment, the stakes, the adrenaline - we'll never understand how that moment felt for Allen and the Heat and ultimately the Spurs. A rebound away from another ring, to overtime and an eventual loss.
The second-guessing wasn't far behind coach Popovich following the loss. Should Duncan have been in the game to secure the rebound instead of sitting next to his coach watching helplessly? Should the Spurs have fouled and prevented the Heat from having the ability to tie the game?
The Spurs had one more chance to make up for the mistake in Game 7, but the Heat rode the momentum from their monumental win and claimed their second straight title.
One shot changed everything.
How would the story have panned out if Allen's shot missed? Would LeBron have ever won another ring? Would the Spurs core be held to an even higher regard? Is Gregg Popovich the greatest coach of all-time?
Allen's shot shaped the legacy for at least eight potential Hall of Famers: LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan and of course Ray Allen.
"I can't describe the feeling of (Game 6)," Bosh said in 2013. "Just something we didn't want to give up and we stayed with it and we knew it was going to be a battle.
"We didn't play our best basketball, but it's all about perseverance."
Story translated and edited for clarity from NBA.com Spain. Ray Allen's triple legacy, the most clutch shot in NBA history, by Nacho Losilla/NBA Spain
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