There are certain teams in sports that remind you of why you loved them in the first place.
They play the game beautifully, like you always want to see it be played. They conduct themselves with class, with humility, and win gracefully. Their games are the purest, most beautiful form of the sport, and you wish it could always be that way.
But it’s not, which is when a team like that comes along, it’s so special.
The Edmonton Oilers made me feel that way about hockey in the 1980s. The New York Yankees did it for me in the late 1990s.
And the 2014 San Antonio Spurs … man, is this a team that Norman Dale from Hickory High School would’ve loved, or what?
Tim Duncan, as selfless a superstar as basketball has ever seen. Tony Parker, a wizard with the ball on a string. Manu Ginobili. Boris Diaw. And Kawhi Leonard, who I remember watching at San Diego State a few years back and thinking, ‘That dude plays hard.”
The Spurs finished off a massacre of the two-time defending champs Sunday night, and it wasn’t even close after the first quarter. The Miami Heat got a championship performance from LeBron James (next stop, Cleveland? I have no idea, but that would set the sports media shuddering with joy.), but nobody else really showed up after Game 2.
Do you realize how incredible it is that Duncan and coach Gregg Popovich (above) won titles together 15 years apart? FIFTEEN! That’s unheard of, but it speaks to quiet consistency, and greatness both.
The Spurs are more than worthy champs, and stand as a testament for all that basketball fans like me love about the game.
Couple more thoughts on an NBA Finals that ended way sooner than any of us expected:
— It was the final game in the career of my all-time favorite Dukie, Shane Battier, and that makes me a little sad. The man had a tremendous career, making every team he was on better with his defense, his intensity, and his intelligence. The joke when he was at Duke was always that he’d be President one day.
Wouldn’t surprise me one bit.
— Very classy of LeBron and the rest of the Heat to act gracefully in defeat, congratulating the Spurs on the court after the game. It’s really hard to dislike LeBron anymore, isn’t it, all you who hate him?
— I said this on my Twitter feed the other day: I would 100 percent watch a reality TV show starring broadcasters Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson, living in an apartment together, bickering, hugging, you name it. They are fantastic on TV together.
**Hope everyone had a happy Father’s Day Sunday; I am so blessed to have three outstanding fathers/role models in my life, with my dad, my stepfather, and my father-in-law. They show me every day what it’ll take for me when I join the “club” in September and become a Dad myself: compassion, humor, kindness, and most of all, patience. Lots, and lots of patience!
Can’t wait to join the club. Three more months and I get the best title of all: Dad.
Couple things to share that I saw Sunday: First, the above Dove ad that almost made me cry, and this from Joe Posnanski, who is never better than when he’s writing about his kids, and being a father. This is really great.
**Finally … after midnight on Friday, after Alec Martinez had collected a rebound kicked out by the all-world Henrik Lundqvist and deposited it into the open net to give the Los Angeles Kings the Stanley Cup, I fell back on the couch and sighed deeply.
I was mad for about 60 seconds, mad that the incredible New York Rangers run through the Stanley Cup playoffs was over. Mad that they played three games in L.A. this series, all went to overtime, and they somehow lost all of them. Mad that Chris Kreider didn’t score on a breakaway in OT, mad that the Rangers hit the post twice and didn’t score the winner.
But that was it; just 60 seconds or so of anger. After that, it was pride. And joy. And a little greatfulness sprinkled in, that the Rangers took their fans on a crazy, unexpected journey that came up just three wins short.
It really was a hell of a spring, and a great way to go out. The Kings were better, but I’m so glad the world got to see Lundqvist at his best.
Sigh. Training camp in three months. Can’t wait. In the meantime, check out (below) the always-awesome Hockey Night in Canada closing montage, putting a bow on these fantastic playoffs:
(By the way, that photo above is not how I looked after the game. Lenox Hill Hospital gave out 100 Rangers onesies to babies born during the Finals. Brilliant.)