The humiliation is complete. The world is right again. And the fat lady has sung and is now soaking in a nice tub listening to some soft rock favorites from the 1970s. It goes to further prove my theory, to the scorned losers before, usually go the revenge spoils.
The San Antonio Spurs thoroughly vanquished the Miami Heat Sunday night in San Antonio. Not only that, they proved something no team in recent memory has done: the Heat are mortal and can bleed. NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard sliced and diced LeBron James (as much as one can) on defense and scorched James on offense. I may not be the biggest LeBron fan, but I would be a fool if I did not acknowledge both his athletic abilities and his future presence in the NBA Hall of Fame. But against this San Antonio Spurs team, James was made into an after-thought. In a theme reminiscent of his days in Cleveland, James was the hardest-working and best player in the series, but Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and the rest of the Heat supporting cast was negated, lifeless, and listless through most of the series—leading to a Spurs romp.
The most impressive player off the series, to me at least, was Leonard. Not only was he given the daunting task of guarding the best player in the world, he had to anchor the Spurs while the oft-mentioned “Big Three” (Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan) did their work. Leonard became only the fourth player in NBA Finals history to score at least 20 points in three straight games before the ripe old age of 23, and he rightfully earned the Finals MVP Award. James played his heart out, and on paper looked to be leaps and bounds better than Leonard, but Leonard out hustled, frustrated, and held serve with James the entire series. In Game 5 alone, Leonard scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds; impressive by any stretch, but even more so against James.
San Antonio was also a more-balanced team this series. Ginobli made the Miami bench look like middle school kids in the gym in 4th period, and finished with 19 points and 4 assists. In the process, he helped cement Duncan, Ginobli, and Parker as the winningest trio in NBA history. As a team, Miami was exposed for a lack of depth and dominated by the pure athleticism of the Spurs. Game after game, dangerous sharpshooters like Ginobli were left wide open to put daggers in the hearts of Heat fans everywhere. The Spurs looked like a team and were having fun on the court, while the Heat were frustrated as the look of entitlement was wiped off their faces both in San Antonio and on their own court in Miami. The deliberate style of play by Gregg Popvich is certainly not the up-tempo and fast paced style of basketball people my age grew up with, but it’s a methodical style of winning that has built the Spurs into a modern-day NBA dynasty.
The Chicago Bulls are, and rightly so, the gold standard for many modern-day basketball fans. Sure, the Lakers and Celtics battles in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s are classic in every sense of the word. But, the Bulls of the 1990s (particularly the 1996 Chicago squad that went 72-10) were arguably the best teams to ever take the court. Names like Jordan, Kerr, Pippen, and Rodman will forever be etched into the lore of a golden age of basketball. But, the San Antonio Spurs have, to me, joined that group—albeit quietly. The Lakers may have won five titles since 1998, but the Spurs clearly win in the categories of both endurance and permanency. To give some perspective, the Spurs have made the playoffs for 17 consecutive years—that means that someone entering college this fall has NEVER seen the Spurs miss the playoffs. As a team, they have won 50+ regular-season games in every one of those years except 1999, when a player lockout had the 82 game season shortened to 50. Coincidentally, the Spurs won the NBA title in 1999 too.
And, on the Miami side of the equation, both the franchise and the fan base should rightfully be embarrassed and in the case of the latter, ashamed of themselves. The Heat were blown out in three consecutive games, looking almost nothing like the two-time defending champions they are. There was an incredible and shocking amount of fragmentation both in the starters and the bench. Yes, the Spurs played well, but this was supposed to be one of the best Finals matchups in history. The Heat players played as though they were due the third championship in as many years, and they were humbled by the better team. The fans of the Heat were proven to be just as bad as I said they would be at the start of this series. They were shown on local TV leaving early before each home loss to the Spurs, and were shown on national television headed towards the exits in the lower level with almost four minutes left in the game, leaving a nice Spurs cheering section in their wake.
There were some pretty awesome memes created following the losses, some of which I’ve posted below.
Tim Duncan’s girlfriend even got in on the action.
— VanessaMacias (@VanessaLMacias) June 11, 2014
An awesome Vine of the walk of shame by the NBA’s worst fans.
One of my favorite Twitter accounts, NBA Memes, reminded everyone one that Heat fans aren’t loyal.
You can see the rest here.
The bottom line is, the Spurs wanted it more. They worked harder as a team (rather than one player). And they rightfully earned the title of world champions. Whether time will finally catch up to this seemingly ageless wonder group, whether Gregg Popovich and/or Duncan retire at the end of the season, or whether Parker leaves for greener pastures remains to be seen.
As for Miami, the world now waits to see if James “takes his talents” elsewhere, whether Wade decides to give his knees a permanent break, and what direction Pat Riley decides to take the franchise. Those decisions will come this summer, and I’ll be interested to see where it all heads.
For now, the Spurs are NBA Champions, giving patient, small-market teams that make good decisions (I’m looking at you, Orlando Magic) hope for the future. Way to go, Spurs.