Hundred and first

Watch Tim Duncan in the 2003 NBA Western Conference Semifinals.

If you want to be dazzled, watch Tim Duncan in the 2003 NBA Western Conference Semifinals.

Watch Timmy absolutely dominate Robert Horry in the mid post. The footwork, the fundamentals, the quiet confidence—Tim Duncan was an agile, six-foot-eleven, Atlantic bluefin tuna. He was buoyant as a goose and staunch as a mule. For 19 years, Father Tim was a theologian of the game. A devout man of Ball. An austere power forward with a divine bank shot and an ecumenical touch around the rim.

I love Tim Duncan. I love the Spurs. I love Pop and Tony and Manu and R.C. and I feel a lot of feelings about Kawhi.

But I didn’t always love Timmy and Pop and Tony and Manu. I actually spent my formative, adolescent years rooting for the Phoenix Suns and absolutely loathing the San Antonio Spurs.

In the early aughts, the Phoenix Suns were a humdrum NBA franchise defined by unrealized potential and frequent inconsistency. But in 2004, that all changed. In 2004, Steve Nash joined the Phoenix Suns. Steve was everything I wanted to be. Electric. Poignant. Nimble. Steve Nash was Colin Meloy with a basketball. He was an Atlantic bluefin tuna, buoyant as a goose and staunch as a mule. And with Steve, Amar’e, Coach D’Antoni, and "The Matrix" Shawn Marion, the Suns lit up the league with their scorching 7 seconds or less offensive attack.

But they could never overcome the Spurs. Three times in four years, Tim, Manu, Tony, and Pop extinguished the Suns’s championship dreams (and my boyhood optimism) by slowly sucking the oxygen out of the arena—year after year after year.

It was also around this time The Right Honorable Jerry Colangelo sold the Phoenix Suns to Robert Sarver for $401 million. Sarver was, to be frank, not Frank, but Robert. He was also a massively cheap dickhead. When Sarver didn’t want to pay Joe Johnson, he traded Joe Johnson. When he didn’t want to pay first-round picks, he traded first-round picks for "cash considerations." Once, to save money, Sarver traded Kurt Thomas and two first-round picks for one second-round pick. Robert Sarver stole my adolescent joy.

In 2006, my dad took me out of Mrs. Ell’s 6th-grade math class to go watch the NBA draft in the concourse of the Phoenix Suns arena. My dad got me a hotdog and a Sprite and I watched the Phoenix Suns select a shrewd, gangly guard named Rajon Rondo from the University of Kentucky.

But Mr. Sarver quickly, coldly, selfishly traded Rondo—a future All-Star, All-NBA, First Team All-Defense, two-time NBA champion—to the Boston Celtics for a future draft pick and some sweet, sweet, cash considerations.

That was the last straw for sixth-grade Pete. I was done. Done! "I’m done with Sarver and his miserly ways!," I exclaimed to my father on our way home from the arena. So I became a Spurs fan. I went to the dark side. I picked the team most likely to beat Robert Sarver’s Suns. I turned my back on Phoenix and swore my allegiance to the Silver and Black.

And I became enthralled with Timmy’s poise, Manu’s pizzazz, Parker’s potency, and Pop’s prudent providence. I sat frantic and devastated on a Guatemalan toilet, sick as a dog, as Ray Allen’s dagger-three stunned the Spurs in the 2013 NBA Finals. I wept like Will Smith at the end of The Pursuit Of Happyness when Timmy and the Spurs avenged that loss in the 2014 NBA Finals. And now, I pray every night for the ping pong balls this May to bounce us straight into Victor Wembanyama’s warm, outstretched, eight-foot arms.

In the corner of the San Antonio Spurs’ locker room, there’s a quote by the Danish-American social reformer Jacob Riis that goes: "When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before."

I was recently asked, "if I could give only one piece of advice to younger me, what would it be?" and I referenced that Jacob Riis quote, hanging in the locker room of my favorite NBA basketball team.

Be a stonecutter, I said. Keep going. Keep hammering. Persist.

Pound. The. Rock.

And also, maybe, spend a few minutes watching Tim Duncan wallop the L.A. Lakers in the 2003 NBA Western Conference Semifinals.

That always helps me.

Originally posted on Psychology Onions

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