I should probably start by saying that I’m a diehard Mavericks fan. This makes the way that I’ve come to appreciate the San Antonio Spurs even more frustrating. We’ve had some epic playoff battles in years past, and more often than not, the Spurs have beaten us. This year, we took them to seven games, making us the only team to do so on their championship run–which, I believe, means we’re the second best team in the league.
However, that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. The Spurs just defeated the Miami Heat in dominant fashion to win their fifth title in 15 years, cementing their dynasty that much more. Even more so, the Spurs have locked down the legacy of Tim Duncan as the greatest player of his generation (come at me, Kobe jock-sniffers). Most importantly, their win is great for America, because it reminds us of several awesome things about our country.
1. Democracy Over Monarchy
I don’t even have to make this point–LeBron did it himself with his moniker, King James. The Heat exist as a perfect example of tyrannical rule. LeBron is the man of the team, surrounded by his lackeys who are just happy to be there. Whether it’s Wade, using the team’s success to cover up his early decline, Bosh, happy to not have to shoulder the burden of stardom anymore, or any of the many scrubs who get to log significant minutes for a perennial championship contender (looking at you, Goose Egg Chalmers) the Heat defer to one man. The Spurs, on the other hand, are stars by committee. This may sound like a slight, but it’s not. On any given night, any of them have the chance to be “the guy.”
It’s been said before, and it can’t be said enough: what makes America so great is that we’re a nation of immigrants. Sure, there are a lot of challenges that come along with that (clashing cultures, crime, anti-assimilation) but the overall benefits far outweigh the cons. For years, many people claimed that Euroball was simply an inferior version of the game, and that it would never be successful in the NBA. Players coming over from other leagues seemed to bear that bias out, save for the occasional Peja Stojakovics and Dirk Nowitzkis. Even then, detractors of the cutting, passing, and floor spacing style of European basketball merely claimed that these were anomalous talents rather than a trend.
It took an old school coach in Gregg Popovich to make the decision before the 2010 season to shift from his low post, defensive powerhouse mindset, to a more fast paced, pass heavy offense to prove that the style was not only viable, but in many cases, superior. He put it into practice by bringing in talented basketball players with a mind for the kind of game they wanted to play, no matter their country of origin. As a result, they have players from seven different countries, all of whom have come to the United States to make millions of dollars and date attractive women. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a beautiful example of the American dream.
3. Skill Versus Talent
If you’re worried that I’m going to say LeBron is only a good basketball player because he coasts on his athletic ability, you’re dead wrong. LeBron is the perfect mix of basketball IQ and athleticism. He’s a phenomenal player. The problem is that his team is built around him, as opposed to built around a system. The Spurs have a style that works no matter who’s on the floor. This is why, on any given night, one of the old guys can have a classic game, or a previous no-name, such as Danny Green or Patty Mills, can light the gym on fire.
Miami, on the other hand, relies on a system that’s actually not much more than “let LeBron make all the decisions, and fly around on defense.” This style has obviously worked for them pretty well with four straight Finals appearances and two wins since the inception of this particular squad. But they showed this year that this style has its downsides–mainly that it wears down your guys. LeBron is the best pure athlete in the world, but the strain of the Heat’s style of play and the number of minutes LeBron’s logged over the last several seasons has clearly caught up to him. Also, that’s not even addressing the milage on the rest of their guys, or that they’re secretly the oldest team in the league.
Conversely, not a single member of the Spurs averaged more than 30 minutes per game during the regular season, which has never been done before, and they still ended up with the best regular season record and the Larry O’Brien trophy.
The same work ethic applies to us. America doesn’t work hard, we work smart. We didn’t become a superpower by handing the fate of the country into one guy’s hands. We have three separate governmental bodies sharing the load and making sure that the failure of one doesn’t affect the whole.
Ultimately, the difference between the two teams is not one of ability or skill, it’s their philosophical approach to the game. You can learn everything about why the Heat lost so badly this year by reading two quotes.
LeBron before Game 5: “Follow my lead.”
Popovich before every game: “Play for each other.”
That’s all you need to know.
P.S.: Now that we’re turning our eyes to the 2014-15 season, FUCK the Spurs.