DALLAS, June 5, 2014 — The Miami Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs in one of the most thrilling finishes in NBA Finals’ history in 2013. The Heat survived a scare at home to win game six and barely survived game seven when Tim Duncan’s layup somehow missed. Each team has multiple championships and now 2014 brings a rematch of last year’s Finals. History will glorify the winner and mercilessly crush the loser. This one time, both teams should be considered winners.
At the risk of violating everything about competitive sports, call them both winners before the series starts. No, this is not an “everybody gets a trophy” movement. Only one team gets the hardware. So let’s praise both teams before knowing who comes up just short.
The Spurs are the model of excellence and class. Coach Gregg Popovich is tough, but fair, and not a media hound. His star player Tim Duncan is the epitome of a role model. He is a polite, calm, solid citizen. He has won four championships, and last year came within inches of a fifth title. Manu Ginobili is also a great player who lets his game speak for him.
There is nothing to dislike about the Spurs. If one really wants to look for something to dislike, one could criticize Tony Parker for being French, and for the Eva Longoria thing. Yet, he never cheated the game of basketball. In recent years, he has eased the pressure off Duncan. Parker is now the lead dog and his injury last year is cited by many as the reason the Spurs lost. His health this year will also play a major factor.
Critics call the Spurs boring. Duncan does not curse, do drugs, beat women, or gang-bang. He is impossible to root against, and a perfect fit for San Antonio. The relatively large statistical metropolitan area gets overshadowed by Dallas and Houston, who all get overshadowed by New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Boston.
The Spurs are the epitome of substance over style, and Duncan is as admirable as they come.
The Miami Heat have been cast as the villains in recent years, but this role never fit them or their star LeBron James. Ever since James left Cleveland, fans outside of Miami have rooted for him to fail.
James is no villain. When he earned a $90 million contract at age 18, he showed remarkable maturity and level-headedness for a young man in that situation.
His most controversial act was “The Decision,” where he publicly left Cleveland for Miami. Players routinely change teams, and every penny of the money raised from that television program was donated to charity.
LeBron did promise multiple championships, but he is not an obnoxious lout on or off the court. While flashier than Duncan, LeBron is also polite, well-mannered and respectful. After the Heat lost game five of this series last year, Lebron said “I’ve got to do better.” He did not blame his teammates. He put everything on himself. He then delivered, giving the Heat the multiple championships he promised.
That is a leader to be admired. He also has a sense of humor, showing up at press conferences with eyeglasses sans lenses.
Every time the Heat are on the verge of falling short of a championship, Coach Erik Spoelstra is about to be fired. Dwayne Wade is old, Chris Bosh is soft, and the team is about to be blown up.
This is insane. These young men have been to the NBA Finals for four consecutive years. They are the defending champions. Even if they do not win this year, they would only be losing to perhaps the most underrated dynasty of all time.
This is not the Lakers against the Celtics, where there is mutual hatred and trash-talking. The Heat and Spurs combine hard competitiveness and good sportsmanship. When Duncan’s Spurs defeated Lebron’s Cavaliers in 2007, Duncan told LeBron that the league would one day be all his. It was a classy and sincere gesture, and LeBron has earned that respect.
In game six last year, the Heat trailed by ten points in the fourth quarter, and by five points with just over 20 seconds left. The Spurs did not choke. The Heat just showed incredible heart and courage, and with some luck, got to overtime and won to live for one more game.
Duncan’s prediction came true. The NBA did become LeBron’s league. Yet Duncan with considerable help could take it back for a final hurrah or two. After all, the new NBA MVP was the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant. The Thunder lost in the Conference Finals to the Spurs. Duncan has not totally given up a share of the reins to his league just yet.
The loser of this series may get eviscerated in the media, but just this once, we should acknowledge that the losing team will not have done anything wrong. They lost to a team that was just slightly better.
Congratulations to the Spurs and the Heat. They both had a fantastic season. On the basketball court, only one will hoist the trophy. In the court of public opinion, they should both be considered champions, and the best of what sports should represent.