It’s said that to truly enjoy a certain achievement or title, one must first learn to lose. To lose means that it’s going to make that final victory that much sweeter. Interesting that it’s topic for the San Antonio because this is a franchise with plenty of history that involves winning and when it comes down to it, the Spurs are the staple franchise in the NBA. Sure, they’re in one of the smaller markets and not the big, flashy destination for free agents but that doesn’t matter. The Spurs win in a more traditional way, sort of the way a team is “supposed” to win. But since the 2007 sweep of the Cavaliers, the Spurs had not tasted ultimate success. They were always around as a perennial contender but that final step was lacking. No more. The Spurs are once again NBA champions, finishing off the Heat last night (4-1) to capture their fifth title. Kawhi Leonard, who is only 22 years old, was named the Finals MVP and is the youngest to do so since, guess who? That’s right, his teammate Tim Duncan was about the same age when the Spurs won their first title back in ’99. Speaking of Tim Duncan, he’s the only player in history to win a championship in three (3!) different decades. Incredible to think that it’s been a 15 year gap since the Gregg Popovich/Tim Duncan duo won their five titles. Will we ever see that again? I’d find it VERY hard to believe but who knows, maybe Leonard does it again? Anyways, all the Spurs players deserve praise. Because as we’ve known for years and years, it’s not about the individual player achievements for them. They continued to stress team play and team efficiency. And it’s what we saw last night as the Spurs absorbed the Heat’s best shot in the 1st quarter and then went on to dominate the game.
Just about the only thing that LeBron James could do was say “man, screw this, i’m winning this” and for a while, it looked like LeBron was going to score 70 points in the game to keep Miami alive. 17 in the first quarter but even the best player on the planet isn’t a match for the best team on the planet. Miami controlled the first quarter but fizzled away quickly after that. The difference was, and has been, in the supporting cast. Since the beginning of the series, Kawhi Leonard played much, much better but so did the less-known players on San Antonio. Where was the Heat’s lesser known staff? You know what, not just the lesser known staff. How about the non-LeBron players? LeBron (31 pts, 10 reb, 5 ast) but no one else contributed meaningful minutes. Not even the other “big 3” players Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. What now for them? They made history by reaching four straight finals but because they didn’t hoist the trophy, it’s labeled as a failure. LeBron didn’t answer questions about his offseason but at the very least, we’re having discussions about whether or not he’s going to stay or opt out of his contract. The Heat’s biggest weapon during their two-year dominance was their ability to step their game up to a level that no other team could reach. This year it didn’t happen and it’s unknown if they can even do it again with this cast. We’ll just have to wait and see. Hey, at least this video is funny again! Enough about the Heat.
This season was and will be known as the Spurs’ season. The redemption happened, and after such a heartbreaking loss last year, it’s all good. Take it from a lifelong Mavericks fan. The demons from ’06/’07 were still with Dirk and the franchise until 2011, when the final winner was Dallas and all was forgotten. The same goes for San Antonio, who tasted the sweetest of victories last night exactly one season later. Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili (four titles each now) all claimed that this is the title that feels the best. Not because they took down the league’s biggest foe, but for themselves and for the franchise and for their fans and for the city of San Antonio. The one thing that surprised me the most was how much better, for most of the series, the Spurs looked. When you take a closer look at the series, it mirrors the postseason in one neat package. Just like the opening rounds of the playoffs, the first two games of the Finals were chaotic and unpredictable. Either team could’ve taken the opening games. But as the series went on, order was restored; much like the playoffs after the first two rounds. The team that “deserved” to win, did in fact win. It’s a rare thing to see in sports. The “good guys” coming out on top. Last night was a win a team basketball and even if you’re a disgruntled Heat fan right now, one has to appreciate what the Spurs did to the fullest. The Spurs are the kings of basketball and we should all take a moment to appreciate how they did it.