San Antonio Spurs' Secret Recipe for Success: Too Many Americans Spoil the Broth

Dan SiegelSenior Analyst IFebruary 28, 2008

In an age where Latin and Japanese baseball players gain more and more headlines and European hockey players are being brought in to take the place of Americans and Canadians on the ice, American football and basketball seem to be the two North American sports that continue to be dominated by Americans.

Well, maybe just football... 

Sure, everybody knows who LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are. Shaquille O'Neal? Yeah, he still plays too. How about Tony Parker?

"Yeah, uh, ain't he that lucky son of a gun who married Eva Longoria?"

Indeed he is, but he has also been one of the top point guards in the NBA for the last six seasons. And he also has three championship rings. 

"Oh yeah. I wouldda watched more Spurs games but there ain't enough slam dunks and trash-talkin' goin' on. That ain't no fun, man." 

Well, man, maybe that's because many of the Spurs are not gaudy, self-promoting, smack-talking Americans. And last this writer heard, winning three championships in the new millennium was pretty fun, man. 

"What?! Tony Parker ain't American?! Sounds pretty American to me..." 

True, Tony's father is African-American, however the elder Parker did not have the same basketball skills as his son and made a name for himself playing basketball in Europe. (He did marry a Dutch model, so the skills with the ladies seem to be on par!) The young Tony learned his craft in France and was rewarded by being drafted by the Spurs in 2001.

"Okay, so da Spurs gots some kid dat was raised in France. Who else dey gots?" 

They also have Manu Ginobili, international superstar and Olympic champion from Argentina.

"I thought Argentina only had soccer players and cows." 

Basketball is actually quite popular in Argentina. Ginobili is as popular down there as any football (soccer) star.

"So gimme da lowdown on dis Ginobili kid." 

Manu has averaged more than 15 points per game over the last four seasons and is averaging more than 20 points per game this season. He also averages more than 15 points per game in the playoffs.

"Fifteen points ain't dat much."

Well, the Spurs have other stars on their team, man. There's Parker, Ginobili, and Tim Duncan of course.

"Tim Duncan, I know him. He went to Wake Forest. What is he from Kenya or sumtin'?" 

Technically, Tim Duncan is American, being born in the US Virgin Island of St. Croix, but he is a much different person than many other American superstars, having interest in psychology, anthropology, and Chinese literature.

"Yao Ming is Chinese."

Yes, very good.

"So what does all dis have to do wit' hoops?". 

It has to do with unselfishness, playing a team game, and doing what needs to be done to win basketball games and championships. If one guy is not having a good night, one of the others steps up and takes a few more shots. If one guy is having a great night, the others do not seem to mind having a few less points on the box score at the end of the game, as long as the team wins.

If the top three guys can do it, then so can the rest of the team. Another Argentine,  Fabricio Oberto, never seems to complain about his inconsistent minutes or appearances and disappearances from the starting lineup.

Nigerian-American Ime Udoka is happy playing 30 minutes or 12 minutes. Frenchman Ian Mahinmi has dealt with being shipped to and from the Austin Toros of the D-League.

The Americans have caught on as well. Bruce Bowen does not complain if he needs to sit on the bench for awhile in favor of more offense. Michael Finley has not complained when Ginobili has stepped up and taken minutes from him. Veterans Jacques Vaughn, Robert Horry, and newly acquired Damon Stoudamire seem to go by the motto of former wrestler, the Rock:

Your role, know it.  Your mouth, shut it. 

Take notice rest of the NBA. Knowing one's role and shutting one's mouth may bring a title home. Otherwise, the Spurs would be happy with doing something they have yet to do: winning back-to-back championships.