By Kurt Helin
Youth may ultimately have been served, but age earned a lot of respect.
Yes, the younger and more athletic core of the Miami Heat won another NBA title, but the older core of the San Antonio Spurs reminded everyone just how beautiful well played team basketball can look like. And how far it can take you. They reminded everyone what a great organization looks like. They no doubt have Hall of Fame players on the roster, but it really works because those guys play their roles just like everyone else. They are a coach’s dream.
They remind us of why we love the game — not the dunks and the ankle-breaking crossovers, but the extra pass and the smart cut. Why we love basketball the sport, not just it’s parts.
Yet somehow and all too often, the Spurs get overlooked. They get counted out. “They’re too old, this is the year it all fall apart.”
Despite San Antonio’s four titles from 1999 to 2007, somehow we tend to look right past the Spurs these days. They are not the sexiest team in the room and too often as fans we focus too much on players and teams who haven’t accomplished 1/10th of what San Antonio has.
However, in these Finals they reminded us they were one of the best. Even in defeat.
“That was the toughest series we have ever been in,” Heat coach Erik Speolstra said.
“For our part, I couldn’t love our guys more,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after the game. “What they accomplished this year is something nobody would have ever expected. And they showed a lot of mental toughness and a lot of good play to get where they got. And I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
What the Spurs did for much of this series — and almost did in Game 7 — is withstand the runs of the Heat. San Antonio showed real mental toughness. Miami’s athleticism is too much for every other team in the league for stretches, yet the Spurs never wilted like everyone before them. The Heat tried to get runs going in Game 7 — Popovich said LeBron James and Dwyane Wade played Hall of Fame games — but each time the Spurs answered. Until at the closing moments of the last two games their legs just had nothing left.
Yet don’t discount that they were there, right in it.