How often can a spot-on comparison be drawn between two teams in separate sports in the same time period?
The answer is never, until the past 15 years. That's when the modern day dynasties of the New Jersey Devils and San Antonio Spurs aligned. Both teams have one central figure and a dominant system that have played integral parts in the success of their teams.
I would like to include the Yankees, but they have usually had an incredible supporting cast to help Derek Jeter. The Patriots were also a consideration, but as good as Tom Brady has been, Bill Belichick made Matt Cassel into a winner.
The Spurs and Devils have arguably used one central player for an extended period of dominance. In all fairness, Tim Duncan had David Robinson and Martin Brodeur had Scott Stevens. But Robinson and Stevens were both gone nine years ago.
Admittedly, it appears Stevens was more important to the success of Brodeur, but one could argue that his last few seasons were spent more as a role player. On the other hand, Duncan has actually won two championships since Robinson has retired.
As far as systems, the Devils are famous for the trap that forced the NHL to modify its rules after the 2004-05 lockout. The Spurs have been running Gregg Popovich's system since the year before Duncan was drafted. Both teams have also been scrutinized for running systems that are not particularly exciting or "fan friendly."
Both players have also been cited or criticized for playing overly boring styles. I like to liken it more to Duncan's nickname of "Big Fundamental" as Brodeur also plays as fundamental a style, as opposed to a player like Dominik Hasek, who was far more exciting to watch.
The Devils have since changed their style and have also changed coaches, but the one individual remains constant, Martin Brodeur. He also plays the most important position in the sport. With the Spurs, the system has been constant, but the team has changed around Duncan.
For me, the comparison comes to the forefront because both teams seem to be experiencing a bit of a resurgence this year after an off year last season. And Brodeur especially seems to have the most talented team of his career.
At the moment, the Spurs have a 2-0 lead in their first-round matchup against the Jazz, and the Devils are up 2-1 in the second round against the Flyers. The Spurs still have to get past the Thunder and Lakers and the Devils have the Flyers and the Rangers/Caps winner ahead of them, but there's definitely a solid parallel.
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