What a difference a year makes

A year ago we San Antonians nursed our wounds. Tim Duncan’s chance at “one for the thumb” had slipped through the net like a Ray Allen three-pointer. With an aging core, a Finals return seemed unlikely.

Then, Coach Gregg Popovich led the Spurs to the NBA’s best regular season record and a triumph over all Western Conference foes.

And then, Mr Duncan promised redemption. “We’ll get it done this time,” he calmly pronounced after defeating Oklahoma City on May 31.

I had my doubts. The Spurs were again up against the “best player on the planet” and a Big 3 that took its talents to South Beach to win “not two, not three, not four…” but more championships.

Oh, but what joy that basketball inventor James Naismith concocted a team sport! And what a difference a year makes.

Last year at this time, San Antonio entered a collective depression. This year, the celebration hasn’t stopped. Not even headfirst fall from a pickup can keep us down (Google “Spurs fan face plant”).

Last year, Manu Ginobili made more turnovers than an English bakery. This year, he dunked on Chris Bosh and resurrected moments of brilliance.

Last year, a once-dominant Duncan knocked hard on retirement’s door. This year, it looked like he could be an effective role player for another five years.

Last year, Patty Mills waived a mean towel from the bench. This year, he threw daggers that put a languishing victim out of its misery.

Last year, Kawhi Leonard was 21. This year, he was 22. And MVP.

Last year, Heat forward LeBron James rejected Spurs center Tiago Splitter in a series-defining play. This year, Tiago sent Heat guard Dwyane Wade packing.

Last year, the Heat’s supporting cast showed up. This year, they appeared tired of the LeBron show.

Last year, the air conditioning worked every game. This year, a warm June night separated the men from those who cramp.

Last year, LeBron swaggered. This year, he whined.

Last year, a yacht-owning Heat owner accepted the championship trophy. This year, a heavy equipment-dealing Spurs owner accepted it.

Last year, the Spurs ran a stale triangle offense. This year, Coach Pop changed to a 1940s weave.

That was about all Pop changed.

He still spoke concisely in interviews. He still graciously hugged LeBron when it was over. He still thanked the fans. (Last year, it was the thousand who greeted a losing team at the airport. This year, it was 75,000 who celebrated at the Alamodome).

Yet again, Pop represents all that’s right with the Spurs and the world. The love he has for his players. The lightness with which he navigates success and fame. The perspective he brings to the game.

When other NBA coaches would be straightening their ties for the championship photos, Pop took his off. It draped casually around his neck as if to say, “Hold loosely to things that pass.” Fittingly, this philosophy had put his team on the championship stage.

During timeouts, Pop would tell his players, “Don’t let it stick,” referring to the ball and the importance of frequent passing.

The principle orchestrated a Mozartian display of team basketball and a fifth NBA title. Pop knows it will orchestrate a fulfilling life, as well.

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

 

P.S. Related: An open letter to Pop, July 2013 – https://kwtinfo.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/an-open-letter-to-pop/

 

3 Responses to “What a difference a year makes”


  1. 1 mrdonnigeria June 27, 2014 at 07:14

    This was excellent. Especially with the win. However, I really enjoyed your article last years also

  2. 2 jessestroup June 27, 2014 at 11:31

    Kevin,  you are a champ writer too – – – this is outstanding.  I am so proud of you.

    Basketball is one sport I know a little about, so I delight all the more with you, your family, and the Spur fans. I even anticipate and understand your innuendos.   Smiling, Jesse

      Jesse R. Stroup Director of Spiritual Care Lifeline Chaplaincy 511 N. Akard suite 202 Dallas, TX 75201 jessestrouplive@yahoo.com

  3. 3 Nancy Abbott June 30, 2014 at 16:45

    Kevin, Once again, your article rocked! Such a superb article about our Spurs. Thank you. This is a keeper. I write for the YMCA and have written about the Spurs for the last month. Just love the analogies we can make about the Spurs and life, humility, caring and preferring one another more than self. You are an extremely talented writer. Thank you, Nancy B. Abbott


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