Why is everybody turning their backs on the San Antonio Spurs?
Before I answer that question, let’s look at some Spurs history. Here’s the skinny:
- This past Thursday, the Spurs became the first NBA team to reach 50 wins in the 2012-13 season
- They are an astounding 28-4 at home and an equally astounding 23-12 on the road this year
- They have three five-game winning streaks, one seven-game streak, and one 11-game streak, with 15 games left to play
- They have had to deal with lingering injuries to Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili (only their three best players BY FAR)
- For those counting at home, the Spurs have won at least 50 games every season since the 1997-98 season and make the playoffs 89% of the time (31 out of 35 since 1967-68)
Here’s the thing, though. Despite their immaculate play all season, people would rather talk about the 36-33 LA Lakers. Or the 36-31 Houston Rockets. Or the 39-26 New York Knicks. Or whether Dahntay Jones decided to change his locks in order to “Kobe-proof” his house.
Fans (Spurs fans not included) and the media alike seem to want to talk about everything but the Spurs, despite the fact that they are reeling off wins like Tiger Woods in his prime with a 36-year-old Tim Duncan and a 35-year-old Manu Ginobili.
I find this discrepancy fascinating.
So what’s the issue here? What exactly am I missing? Is it because they have always been this good? After all, it’s no secret that disappointment and struggle sell more papers than continued success. Just look at newspaper covers. Shootings, natural disasters, assaults and robberies litter the front pages. Want a positive story? Better keep digging.
When things aren’t going your way, when you’re underachieving, especially in sports, people’s ears seem to perk up like Catholics when that white smoke puffs up from the Vatican chimney. The media loves the combination of ridiculously high expectations and superstar X failing to meet them. Just ask 2010 LeBron James in his first year with the Miami Heat. Or Tiger Woods during his current major-less streak. Or Kobe Bryant right now.
But this theory doesn’t fully answer the question.
Would we stop paying attention if the Heat ripped off not five, not six, not seven NBA titles in a row? Did we collectively tune out when Tiger not just won but dominated four straight majors starting with the 2000 US Open? Or when Roger Federer won five straight at Wimbledon AND the US Open?
The simple answer: No friggin’ way. We had our eyes firmly glued to our TVs.
So it’s clear that we love watching the best of the best. An athlete or a team that is leaps and bounds above the rest draws eyeballs, period. While athletes and teams that don’t live up to expectations (see 2012-13 LA Lakers) peak our collective interest, it’s also obvious, by the same token, that we enjoy watching one person or team just flat-out dominate.
So what’s the real problem then, you ask?
To put it simply, most people just find the Spurs to be a boring team. Where are the highlight dunks? Where are the outspoken personalities? Where’s the flair? Where’s the swag?
The numbers bear this out. Since 1976, according to TV ratings, the two lowest-rated NBA Finals’ were in 2003 and 2007. Guess what? Yup, you guessed right. The Spurs won the NBA championship in 2003 and 2007.
At this point, I’d like to say that I do not find this basketball team to be boring. Whatsoever. I never have and I never will.
I enjoy efficiency in any aspect of life. And out of the 30 NBA teams, the Spurs are definitely the most efficient of the bunch, running like a well-oiled machine. Led by Gregg Popovich, the smartest (and probably the funniest) head coaches in the league, the Spurs get more out of their roster year-after-year than any other team.
One recent example comes to mind. This past November, the Spurs have a tilt with the Heat in a nationally-televised game. Very quietly, Pop decides to send Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Danny Green home. That’s 80% of their starting lineup! The team was gutted! Heat fans were miffed when players such as Nando de Colo and Patty Mills were announced in the player intros. I still don’t know who these guys are!
So with a starting lineup that might have had some trouble against D-League talent, everybody readied themselves for a Heat blowout. But it just never happened. Pop mixed and matched his team to hang with the Heat until the very end, eventually losing out 105-100 in a hard-fought game that probably felt like a moral victory for the Spurs.
It didn’t matter that the Spurs lost. It really didn’t. In my opinion, they made as big a statement by hanging with the Heat with that lineup than they would have made with a win armed with a full roster.
To use a popular term, the coaching staff of San Antonio are busy playing chess while the rest of the league plays checkers.
I can understand why people would find Tim Duncan boring. I really can. But I just love watching this guy play. Set to go down as probably the greatest power forward ever, Duncan has been doing everything right since being drafted in 1997. He might also go down as one of the most humble superstars to ever play the game. Just don’t mistake humility for passivity.
He always seems to be in the right place to grab boards. His post-moves are effective, efficient and a joy to watch. And if he’s defending you, get ready for a very long night. He’s the walking personification of leading by example. He has to be one of the most quietly confident players ever, not playing for the attention of the media but for the respect of his teammates, his coaching staff and his fans.
He probably doesn’t even enjoy playing in the All-Star Game because all that razzle dazzle just seems like it’d be foreign to him. But who cares? The point here is that if you’re a big man and want to play in the NBA, you couldn’t find a better role model than TD. We all know he’s good but allow me to roll out his career numbers for good measure: 20.1 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 3.1 apg, 2.2 bpg, 51 fg%. Woah.
Parker and Ginobili are two of the speediest and feistiest NBA guards to ever play the game, as well as two of the most entertaining. Parker’s one of the quickest players in the game and always brings a steady hand to the Spurs’ offence. And Ginobili, quite simply, is one of the most unique players in the history of basketball. He may have an unorthodox style of play but he brings a tough, Argentinian soccer mentality to the Spurs every single night. To quote Pop, “He’s Manu Ginobili.”
To be honest, I can at least understand why people might find Duncan boring to watch. But if you think that watching Parker and Ginobili play basketball is boring, then we must be watching different things.
With the Spurs, you can’t help but feel that the organization is like a second family to each and every one of them. It’s like Vince, E, Turtle and Drama. The Spurs are the Entourage of the NBA. You know these guys will stick with each other through thick and thin. They’ll stand up for each other through trying and tumultuous times. They’ll support each other off the court as well as on it.
It’s cliche to say but I really believe there are no egos on this team. They’re the team-iest of all the NBA teams, by far.
And one thing I can pretty much guarantee you is that they’ll continue to do these things until the day they retire. Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Pop will be Spurs for life. Mark my words. They’ll never work for another organization, something that’s becoming more and more rare these days no matter what you do. And something that should be applauded.