The Underappreciated Dominance of the Spurs

The Spurs demolished the Oklahoma City Thunder last night en route to taking a 2–0 lead in the Western Conference finals. The way San Antonio goes about their business of taking opponents apart is so routine, so humdrum that they can’t even produce decent highlights. In trying to find something that would have summed up last night’s action with enough excitement, the only thing I could land on was a play in which the Spurs patiently break down OKC’s defense and then work the ball to an open man, Tony Parker, for a three-pointer (Manu Ginobili assist).

And who wants to see that?

Matt Yglesias had a piece in Slate yesterday wondering why people just don’t seem to care about San Antonio’s dominance. Headlines this season focused on the Thunder and the Heat, while the San Antonio machine just kept on ticking. Yglesias comes up with two major explanations. First: The Spurs don’t dunk and have almost never had spectacular dunkers on their team. Second: They’re notably absent of superstar drama — no “decisions,” no coach-player feuds, no rumors of leaving, nothing.

I do think that the memory of the Spurs is partially diminished by how long it’s been since they were “relevant” in the NBA. They’ve had a very long run of dominant regular seasons but haven’t been to the NBA Finals since 2007, their last title year. The Spurs also had a dynasty that was somewhat subtle, never winning back-to-back titles. However, for a long time, the Spurs did generate interest. Tim Duncan is universally recognized as one of the greatest players of all time, and their playoff clashes with the Shaq-Kobe Lakers were must-see TV for basketball fans.

Last year, when the Spurs showed similar under-the-rader dominance, they flamed out in the first round. The media, by and large, seemed to regard San Antonio’s regular season as an aberration unworthy of comment, and the first-round loss validated that narrative. The Spurs got old and the national media didn’t need to spill the ink on them any more. This year, the Spurs are proving that was probably a fluke.

The theme of Yglesias’s piece is right on, though, and I’d like to add something else that puzzles me. There are a lot of Americans who are fans of college basketball and eschew the NBA, and they often cite things that are supposedly unique to the college game. They prefer a game not driven by superstars, predicated by ball movement and off-ball action. They prefer teams that are ldefined largely by the identity of a coach, not a player. They prefer unselfishness and abhor showboating.

These are all things that define the San Antonio Spurs. No, they’re not exactly a college-style team. But they do embody the values that college basketball enthusiasts say they love. So I urge you, collegiate fans: Embrace the Spurs!

Related: I just love the NBA’s “Big” commercial for the Spurs.

Most Popular

U.S.

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More
Religion

Billy Graham: Neither Prophet nor Theologian

Asked in 1972 if he believed in miracles, Billy Graham answered: Yes, Jesus performed some and there are many "miracles around us today, including television and airplanes." Graham was no theologian. Neither was he a prophet. Jesus said "a prophet hath no honor in his own country." Prophets take adversarial ... Read More
Film & TV

Why We Can’t Have Wakanda

SPOILERS AHEAD Black Panther is a really good movie that lives up to the hype in just about every way. Surely someone at Marvel Studios had an early doubt, reading the script and thinking: “Wait, we’re going to have hundreds of African warriors in brightly colored tribal garb, using ancient weapons, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More