[Editor's Note: This was originally posted little more than an hour after the end of Game 6. I've republished it because I think it's about best thing I've read about what MEM vs SA really was, and who the Spurs are. -jollyrogerwilco]
When tomorrow morning rolls around, perhaps even later tonight with the speed of technology, headlines on media outlets across the nation will be draped under a banner of headlines trumpeting in various ways how the Memphis Grizzlies ended an era and pulled off the greatest upset in modern history. As so many different instances in history will tell you though, things often show their true perspective with time, and reveal how truly easy it is to get caught up in the moment. In as few words as possible, these headlines will all be wrong.
The Memphis Grizzlies defeated The San Antonio Spurs. This is true. In sports, as well as in many facets of life, for every winner there must be a loser. The Spurs, as time will eventually show, simply came out on the wrong end. While one could sit and come up with myriad reasons as to why this is, the simple fact of the matter is only that the Spurs lost.
Today's media has a prodigious ability to not only overstate the simple, but to sensationalize on a dime. They, just like the sports they cover, are a business, and businesses are designed to turn a profit. To generate a bottom line. That bottom line is often bolstered by the fact that whatever was written or said was packaged to be sold to those whose attention is easily grabbed, people who fail to look at events in history with a broad view of where they themselves have been, as well as where they are going. These people are the ones who want to hear about dynasties being toppled, and eras coming to a close.
In life, one adage that rings true is that "time flies when you're having fun." The San Antonio Spurs have been good for a long time. A very long time. One glance at old issues of Sports Illustrated or a quick perusing of YouTube will reveal as much. True to the saying, most Spurs fans would look at the numbers 1999, 2003, 2005, and 2007 and initially fail to realize how long that really is, even with the consideration that athletes seem to age in fast forward. All things told, to be at the top of the game, and to be envied for having done so, for well over ten years, is something you simply do not see every day.
A few years ago, I wrote an article mentioning how much luck played into the skill it takes to win a championship. Quite literally, there are only a handful of plays and incidents that prevented the Spurs from possibly winning yet another handful of titles. In a modern sports league, where parity seems to be a forgone conclusion, that admission states quite a bit towards the longevity of excellence that the Spurs have maintained. Time however, for as good as it has been to the Spurs, eventually resumed its old ways and began to wear on those to whom it had bestowed its kindness.
Though the media clamors to label this series of events a monumental upset, the fact of the matter is that Spurs have quietly aged since their initial title in '99. Each year, the media leapt at the opportunity to foretell of the Spurs inevitable decline due to their age, in such a manner that one would be reminded of a petty child feeling the need to announce that they had been "first" to something, simply for the sake of letting others know. They were proven wrong. Four times. For more than a decade. During that time, many of these pundits likely aged in a greater degree than did the gentlemanly champions they hurried to dismiss.
To me, the Spurs showed their age in last year's playoffs. They were run ragged, and dismissed by an historic rival without so much as a whimper. Compared to the tooth and nail battle of inches they fell short on this year, one would hope that those who write for the big bucks might display insight enough to notice the heart that was displayed by both teams, and not simply by the gilded cinderellas they feverishly leapt to crown as if they had toppled a civilization.
As writers everywhere will relentlessly pursue what is honestly an unoriginal theory that the Spurs loss is the greatest upset of "all time", they will all fail to mention key things in order to legitimize their articles. Most notably, this will come in the form of the comparison that is now being drawn between the 2007 Mavericks, who were also the number one seed in the West during those playoffs. One thing that has consistently gone unsaid by these writers, is the simple fact that in 2007, the Mavericks were the best team in the entire NBA, and not simply half of it, picked by many of these very same writers to win it all before anything had even begun. These very same Mavericks were beaten by an eighth seeded Warriors team who, in all honesty, made it look a hell of a lot easier than The Grizzlies made it look against the Spurs. Since I don't write for a major media outlet though, I'm probably wrong, even though I'm stating a plain fact. The 2007 Warriors annihilated The Mavericks with an alarming appearance of ease, placing them starkly at odds with these 2011 Grizzlies who kicked and screamed every inch of the way.
The Memphis Grizzlies are a good team. Anyone waiting for me to elaborate on precisely how good they are should simply exhale. They are good, and that is it. Despite having ended a former champion's efforts for a fifth title, they themselves do not possess the ability to win on such a scale as the Spurs did. Each championship iteration of the Spurs, much like every champion throughout history, possessed a multitude of intangibles that carried them to such great heights, the truly great players that anchor those teams are only a fraction of the equation. Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant would be the first to tell you that. The Grizzlies have no one who could do the same. Despite the truly admirable effort that Zach Randolph has played with, he has a ceiling that sits well below the two aforementioned players who have been the faces of the league since they played their first games in it. Greatness however, does not prevent the passing of time. I have a feeling that if it did, fans of the great teams would not look upon their heroes with near the admiration. What Spurs fans have is truly special.
The farther away you get from that which you are passionate about, the perspective gained is directly proportional from the speeds at which it seems you're moving away. In five years, or perhaps ten or twenty, hopefully someone will look at what the Spurs were able to accomplish and compare it with what the Lakers and Celtics of old accomplished when there was far less parity in the league. Though critics will offer that San Antonio never won back to back titles (as if that were some qualifier that hid in plain sight, making opinions far and wide ring true), the simple fact of the matter is that San Antonio was better than back to back. They were good for a far greater period of time than an isolated two year period in which they might have won back to back. They were so good that an entire league scratched and clawed to model themselves after them, often resorting to looting the players and coaches themselves away from the Spurs. The fact that their efforts didn't work is perhaps more telling of the Spurs' true greatness than the victories themselves were. It's almost like cheating on a homework assignment for an easy A, then failing the exam because you really didn't have what it took. Like that old Old Spice commercial featuring Bruce Campbell said:
"If You've Never Had Any Of It, Ever, People Just Seem To Know."
The Spurs had It. They've Had It All.
Old Spice Commercial ft Bruce Campbell (via atrocitic)