I began typing this shortly after Lebron James tore into the lane and dunked on Shawn Marion/Assorted Compatriots late in the fourth quarter of Game 1 of the NBA Finals. I turned the game off after that. Not because I'd given up hope that Dallas would be able to turn back The Heat, but just because I'm tired. I played a lot of basketball today. Playing is harder than watching.
After the Spurs' final game of the season, I put out an article that detailed more or less my opinions on how the media viewed San Antonio, and what the Spurs had managed to accomplish in the years prior. Lately, both on this site and elsewhere, idea have been bandied about as to the Spurs' true fate, their options for the future, and a whole mess of things in between. Also, people have talked quite a bit about the Miami Heat, specifically what they "mean" to the league. Leave it to a team of All-World athletes to bring out the best in people.
The second that the San Antonio Spurs' season ended, people with internet connections everywhere trumpeted their demise as if it they had inked their binding surrender onboard a Japanese warship. Some people decided to call it the greatest upset of all time, which was erroneous at best, while others declared that the "Dynasty" had been toppled in one fell swoop. That, as they say, was also erroneous.
You have to have a dynasty in order for it to be toppled.
Succinctly, the Spurs' Dynasty has been long over, in NBA terms. Four years have passed since any member of the Silver and Black hoisted the Larry O'Brien Trophy, and despite the fact that they've managed to continue winning at an impressive clip, none of the most recent campaigns have ended in any way other than early exits into earlier summers, if you subscribe to standards held by members of San Antonio's illustrious fanbase. The wins, in short, mean relatively little by comparison. The nicest way you could really discuss this season's win total, would be to call the end product either a disappointment, or a monumental overachievement. I subscribe to the latter, as I never thought the Spurs were as good as their win/loss column indicated. Lackluster wins over less than impressive opponents peppered that win column, while the losses came in the form of defeats at the hands of worthy adversaries, along with an assortment of very Spurs-ish letdowns at the hands of teams who perennially slum it in the bottom third of the league's power rankings.
However you view the season's outcome, one thing seems to be at the forefront of the minds of those who call PtR their internet haven. With a strong majority of people all wondering with varying degrees of enthusiasm exactly what the Spurs can do to revert to their championship pedigree, the general consensus seems to be that a minor tweak here or there is all that is needed to get back on track. Though the agreement on exactly what needs to be done is decidedly less uniform, most everyone agrees that the status quo isn't going to make things any better. Though I display a quite voracious fanhood from time to time, my recent easygoing behavior causes me to see things a little bit differently than I might have previously allowed. When The Spurs are mentioned these days, their name usually comes with a disclaimer, warning interested parties about "a window closing", as if San Antonio was about to be driven off a used car lot by a prospective buyer. It's fitting then, that such an analogy can be drawn in earnest.
When the Spurs drafted Tim Duncan, they essentially found themselves holding the keys to a Ferrari. If comparing Tim Duncan to a sexy, high-powered, exotic sports car seems a bit of a stretch, then allow me to bend your laws of disbelief by exemplifying Lebron James, Kobe, etc. as Ferraris in kind. Though draft status doesn't always mean everyone with a high pick won't accidentally roll off the lot with a Winnebago (Michael Olowokandi), the analogy of the high powered sports car works, because, just like the right players, they can take you very far, very fast. Shortly after getting the keys to that Ferrari, the San Antonio spurs were off and running, establishing a period of dominance that was effectively shared by the Los Angeles Lakers, and inhibited by a couple of other speed bumps along the way. Since Duncan took the floor wearing a Spurs uniform, the ride has been a great one, with him taking us to the top of the mountain for separate times in his term of service thus far. Just like most other things in life though, cars eventually tend to break down as their age climbs.
When your car starts to break down, most people don't just get rid of it outright. Instead, they display their loyalty to a machine that's gotten them there, back, and out of some tight scrapes, by making sure that it has the necessary parts to ensure that it can continue to run optimally for as long as possible. Or you can trade your car to the Orlando Magic, after deciding that you over-payed for it, and after you caught it pulling a gun on the other car in your garage. That however, is neither here nor there. The bottom line is that most of us can relate to wanting to keep our cars running for as long as possible. Eventually though, the most crucial parts of the car begin to show there age, and that is when the proverbial writing manages to find its way onto wall, or since we're using car analogies, when the annoying semi-permanent, dislocate-your-elbow-trying-to-clean-it-off-immature-high-school-kid soap pen writing makes its way onto your car windshield.
What's happening with The Spurs is really no different. The Tim Duncan Ferrari has taken us far, and has been a great car, but despite efforts to keep it running my providing the necessary parts, it's just winding its way down. While I'm certainly not advocating selling Duncan on eBay Motors or Craigslist, I'm sure most of us would agree that, even with the best efforts made to keep the motor running, there just isn't the same pep to the gas pedal step. While I'd never count out a playoff caliber team from having a shot to win it all in a given year, let's just say that it's hard to win a drag race when everybody is starting to show up with newer, faster cars. I believe that is the embodiment of the reasoning behind the term "changing of the guard", as used in reference to sports.
In regards to this writing, you could make the argument that Duncan hasn't become outdated or old, he's become a classic, and there's yet to be anything wrong with achieving that status. So the parts we put around him might not work. So what? Very few teams can roll out their players and say that one of them is a legitimate, all time great. Lebron might be the newest model of the lot, but Duncan was the name on the lips of those who had him, AND those who were just jealous, long before he showed up. Classics like that don't get worse with age. Ever. They might not win every race you put them in, but they'll always be a defining example of "timeless cool", and I think I speak for everyone when I say I'd rather have that. There's a reason James Dean sells more posters than Justin Bieber.
In regards to this new look NBA we've been treated to over these playoffs, the only thing that I can offer is that, unlike a lot of people, I really don't care about who wins The Finals. Sure, I'd love for Dirk and Jason (Kidd) to win a ring, testifying to their respective individual greatness, but that's more because I believe that Legends have the right to exit their fields with the one thing that proves to be indiscriminately elusive to so many of them. I look at this Finals matchup and say that Lebron is eventually going to win a heap of rings, so I say that I want Dirk and Kidd to get theirs, but that's not out of any particular allegiance to one team or the other. Sure, I'm a Spurs fan, but at the end of the day, I really don't care all that much. I'd definitely prefer Tim Duncan and Co. to win another ring, but since life continues to assert that it'll go on regardless, I find myself less and less engaged to the hilt over who wins. I feel like I used up all my ferocious, allegiance-inspired freak-outs back in my early twenties, so now I just try my best to simply take the game in, regardless of who's playing.
One of the bonuses to my newfound (as of 2006) attitude is that I'm able to see and/or read a lot of what people say and wonder why it bothers them so. Take a recent post on our very own PtR, concerning Jason Terry's end-of-game antics as Dallas closed out the Western Conference Finals. Despite the fact that I added my two cents that it didn't bother me, the fact of the matter is that I simply don't care. So what if Jason Terry dunked a meaningless two points in at the end of regulation? Who cares if Lebron "deserted" Cleveland to go and do what most people in the NBA not named Vince Carter seem genuinely intent on doing? I learned a long time ago, through what amount now to "bad decisions", that I can't control what other people think, say, or do, no matter how much I wish that I could. While I can definitely say that I wouldn't have handled either of the aforementioned situations like their respective owners did, I can also say with full assurance that neither one bothered me past the superficial "Oh... Whatever." reaction. Though some would assert that my relatively flippant attitude doesn't positively contribute to anything, I'd assert right back that neither does their caring about it enough to talk. Specifically within the realm of sports (that way I can avoid having to discuss whether I view everything with such ambivalence), I can say that aside from the enjoyable debates and discourse they allow people to have, once they cross the line into media sensationalism (which seems to be becoming more and more a synonym for "life as we know it'), I find myself to be utterly disinterested. In fact, I almost view it the same way that some people view sports video games. "Why do that when you can just go do it yourself?" Regardless of how many people view them, sports to me are simply a facet of life, and not life entirely.
Perhaps the reasoning behind my rationale is that, like so much else in my life, I tend to have an idealistic reality that exists inside my head. I write a lot, and I spend a lot of time thinking about what ideas I could put into writing, whether they be fiction or otherwise. That alone might be the reason I no longer allow myself to get swept up in whatever tornado is spinning through town on a given day. That's not to say that I don't occasionally err and find myself in a heated argument, but more so to say that I tend to view the things I see in my imagination the very same way that a lot of other people may view the reality they've been given: It's everything to them, and they'll defend it, forcefully if needed. It might not make sense to very many people, to know that I'm essentially cultivating a daydream farm with the watchful eye of an experienced farmer, but it's simply how I work. Just like the farmer might go to town or out socially for a bit before wondering just what in the hell might be happening to his turnips, so to do I make similar excursions into and out of "the real world." One thing I can say for sure is that employers past and present love that, and I mean that in full sarcasm and with a colon smiley emoticon at the end of that sentence.
Seeing as how this is one of those pieces I started writing with only a slim idea of what I'd like the endgame to be, I definitely own up to the possibility that I might simply have just been rambling for the better part of the past half hour. Since I don't feel like going back through and making sure I wasn't pulling a Mel Gibson and rambling like a drunkard (which would admittedly be hard, due to my present lack of alcoholic beverages), let me instead promise that if I was in fact just aimlessly wandering the barren wastes of the online blogosphere, I'll simply just do a fake news article next time. You people seem to like those things.
(author's note: "blogosphere" is not a word that my computer indicates as being either not a real word, or simply a misspelled one, which is tragic in a lot of ways.)
I'm going to go play Super Metroid.