Photo Credit: NBA Entertainment\Getty Images
It really does seem like they’ve been doing this forever. Not this, mind you. Not this level of offensive excellence, but this quiet, understated march towards the Larry O’Brien trophy while the eyes of the basketball world are on flashier teams in bigger markets – like Lob City, for instance. Chris Paul having Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan as his personal dunk muses, capable and willing of ridiculous feats of aerial derring-do. And what did the Spurs, the habitually boring Spurs do to this team? The same thing they did to the Seven Seconds or Less Suns too many times to count. They dismantled them, broke them down with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of skill. When it was done, it was a sweep and no one was surprised, no one batted an eye and no one thought about it.
And yet, if you asked them honestly, would they care? Would they mind the attention of the basketball world to be on them, to notice their brilliance? To proclaim them this generation’s answer to dynasties from eras past? I know the answer, I knew the answer before I even asked those questions. And, if you search your mind, so did you. The Spurs have never been about attention, fame or welcome parties. They get in, do their job, and get out. So why don’t we respect that ethos, that do your work and go home ethic?
Easy. It’s because we have always, for whatever reason, thought of the Spurs as boring. It’s a combination of things. The Riverwalk. Greg Popovich. Their unwillingness to whine about their station in the NBA’s power structure. But mainly, it’s about the 2 great stars in the San Antonio firmament: Robinson, and Duncan.
Here’s the thing. We talk all the time about what we want or what we don’t want out of athletes. Usually the we want list goes something like this: play at a high level, never cheat yourself or your game, be fundamentally sound and contribute in the community. All of those things, every last one, are Robinson and Duncan. And yet we find ourselves yawning every time we see them in big postseason series, desperate to see the new thing, the flashier thing. Even if, as they have only been all too happy to prove flashier is not always better.
But why? That’s the big overarching question. And the truth is this: What we say we want and what we ACTUALLY want are two different things. And to illustrate this point, I will use a quote from one of my great personal heroes.
“Water can flow or it can crash. Be like water my friend.” – Bruce Lee.
We want teams and players who will crash for us. We want the explosive personalities of the Showtime Lakers, or the diamond-sharp intensity of the MJ Bulls. In short, we want to be compelled. We want to be drawn to our champions.
The Spurs, on the other hand flow. They just are the same sort of quiet international-influenced excellence they always have been. And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe we were never ready to tolerate a dynasty like this, to tolerate a dynasty influenced to this degree by two European players like Parker and Ginobili. I’m not sure.
But whatever the reason, here’s the point. While we debate who is the greatest player of this era, the true greatest player of this era just keeps on going, keeps on leading the greatest team of this era. In silence and perhaps without the appreciation he and they deserves, but they just keep on going.