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Spurs-Heat is culture clash we need
The biggest lie in sports is that the San Antonio Spurs are boring. Winning is never boring.
Golf is boring. But when Tiger Woods was winning every third tournament he played and making a bid to obliterate all of Jack Nicklaus’ records, golf was more spellbinding than porn.
Women’s basketball is boring. But when the media pretended Connecticut women’s basketball was going to surpass John Wooden’s UCLA winning streak, women’s hoops flirted with relevancy.
Horse racing is boring. But we’re suckered into the sport every time a 3-year-old puts together a two-race win streak that includes the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.
Winning is the ultimate aphrodisiac. It always creates excitement, draws interest.
The Spurs are far from boring. Sunday evening, in the opener of the Western Conference finals, the Spurs stretched their playoff winning streak to nine games, their overall winning streak to 19, with an impressive 101-98, come-from-behind victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in San Antonio.
Boring? Hardly. Manu Ginobili came off the Spurs bench and unleashed a dizzying array of twisting runners at the rim, fallaway jumpers from beyond the arc and midrange floaters that eventually overwhelmed the Thunder.
Boring? Hell no. The Spurs trailed by nine after three quarters. Fellow reserves Tiago Splitter and Gary Neal got the Spurs back into the game early in the fourth, sparking a 9-2 run to open the quarter.
The Spurs aren’t remotely boring. They’re poorly marketed by a commissioner and a league that overdosed on Michael Jordan and the celebration of individual over team. They’re poorly defined by media that are gutless, politically correct and lazy.
San Antonio-Miami is the culture-war showdown that could build on the momentum of last year’s terrific NBA Finals. San Antonio-Miami would represent team vs. stars, diligence and patience vs. instant gratification, humility vs. hype, international basketball culture vs. American basketball culture.
Tim Duncan (Virgin Islands), Tony Parker (France) and Manu Ginobili (Argentina), the San Antonio-drafted foundation of the Spurs team, did not grow up a part of traditional American basketball culture. Duncan grew up dreaming of being an Olympic swimmer. He stayed all four years at Wake Forest. Parker and Ginobili grew up playing international basketball.
San Antonio’s “Big Three” is quite a contrast to Miami’s. James, an Akron, Ohio, native, never attended college and orchestrated his move to Miami after seven seasons with the Cavaliers. Bosh, a Dallas native, left Georgia Tech after one season and bolted to Miami after seven seasons in Toronto. Dwyane Wade, a Chicago native, played two seasons at Marquette and was drafted by the Heat.
The Spurs share the ball and the scoring load, rely on a 10-man playing rotation and run an exquisitely precise offense. James and Wade, with the exception of the last three games against the Pacers, mostly go one-on-one for their points. Duncan, Parker and Ginobili rarely dunk. James and Wade are featured on "SportsCenter" nightly.
San Antonio-Miami could be a dream matchup. The NBA hasn’t had anything like this since Magic Johnson and Larry Bird clashed. There were racial undertones to those battles and the media were not afraid to explore those undertones. We were less politically correct in the 1980s.
The Spurs and their multiple championships on the backs of Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and coach Gregg Popovich are a repudiation of American, AAU basketball culture. James, Wade and Bosh are the ultimate manifestation of American, AAU basketball culture. They learned the game while being seduced by the shoe companies that finance summer basketball. The teenage summer circuit is what has made the modern American player value friendship more than competition. The best players now dream of teaming together rather than out-dueling each other.
They want to be like Nike . . . I mean Mike.
Who can blame them?
David Stern and his television partners have convinced the world that Michael Jordan invented basketball, that the individual player is far more valuable than a team.
The Spurs should be the NBA’s version of the Green Bay Packers. Yes, the Cowboys are more glamorous and the Steelers and the 49ers have won more Super Bowls. But little old Green Bay is “Titletown.” The Packers are a huge national television draw. No one would call the Packers boring.
The Spurs are not boring. Greatness is never boring. And if these Spurs go on to win the title, there will be no denying they’re one of the greatest teams in NBA history.