SAN ANTONIO, TX – In one of the most dominant NBA Finals series in modern history, the San Antonio Spurs cruised to their fifth title, dethroning the defending champion Miami Heat in five games: losing one game by two points, and winning the other four in blowouts.
As the buzzer sounded for the series’ final rout, a 104-87 annihilation in front of the exuberant hometown crowd, Foreigner’s “Feels Like the First Time” blasted through the arena – quite appropriately, as the Spurs savored this championship as much any any of the others, and maybe a little bit more.
All five titles for the Spurs have come over the past 15 years and, amazingly, Head Coach Gregg Popovich and Power Forward Tim Duncan have been there for all of them. “Pop” is the longest-tenured coach in any major sport (he’s been in San Antonio since 1996), and Duncan, at 38, is not only one of the greatest players of all time, but remains a force to be reckoned with as most players his age merely take up space on the court, or have long retired.
If Pop is the mastermind and Duncan the dominant front court player, the tandem of guards Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker arguably continue to comprise the best backcourt in basketball.
Nonetheless, what makes this Spurs team special is not just that they won, but how they won. “We’re not that good” to play against the Heat man-to-man, Pop said time and again. However motivating that might have been to get his players to rise to the occasion is besides the point – it’s also true. After all, as great as Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker are, not one of them even comes close to the Heat’s Lebron James, undoubtedly the most dominant player in the NBA and considered by some to be the best ever. And then, there’s the Heat’s stellar supporting cast, not least of which is Shooting Guard Dwayne Wade – who would easily be the top player on virtually any team that didn’t include Lebron.
And that’s exactly what makes the Spurs’ win so special: teamwork. Together, the Spurs are second-to-none. No other team in the league even comes close to unselfish ball movement, and that was the difference in the series.
BIG THREES NOT ALWAYS THE CHARM
The NBA’s original – and arguably, greatest – “Big Three” were Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish of the heralded Boston Celtics of the 1980s. Since then, it seems every time three better-than-average players converge, they are inevitably labeled as such. Of course, the Heat’s Big Three, James, Wade, and Center Chris Bosh, are not merely better-than-average, but they are the latest trio to fall two or three championships short of a dynasty.
The more recent Celtics Big Three – Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen, managed to win just one. And even the originals only won two – as did Heat’s version. They may not be done just yet, though rumors abound that at least one of the three will play elsewhere soon enough.
Besides, in addition to winning the title in grand fashion, the Spurs also had the league’s best record during the regular season, so it doesn’t look like there’s any reason not to expect them to pick up next season right where they left off.