Being from, and living in, San Antonio, I am a fan of the Spurs. I remember when they played in the Alamodome and wore teal/pink/black uniforms. I have seen the team produce incredible players and amazing wins.
Yet, I frequently hear from non-Spurs fans, "Your team is old and slow. The ultimate definition of boring."
So I take a step back, away from the stats and facts, away from the analytical articles critiquing game play, and look at why some individuals have this perception of the San Antonio Spurs.
Argument 1: Old and Slow
Currently, the Spurs have both "old" and "new" on the team. With Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginóbili and Stephen Jackson, the team has a total of 48 years of experience.
The roster also has NINE players with three or less years of professional league play. What other team has that range of experience? The Spurs have young, intelligent players mentored by veterans who understand the game and team dynamics.
I've read that many attribute OLD and SLOW with the Spurs because they are constant—the same head coach, the same big players, the same game dynamics—causing the team to never have "fresh blood" or shake up the norm.
But if the team produces winning seasons year after year, and is profitable in its business operations, why not keep this successful model? Why try to change the foundation if it's solid? Why try to fix something if it's not broken?
Duncan, the team captain, and main focus of the "old and slow" argument, made major personal physical changes in the offseason in order to compete at his full potential this season.
According to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News,"an altered summertime diet — sparse on sugars and breads — helped Duncan shed about 20 pounds since 2010-11, keeping some wear off his knee. He changed his offseason workout regimen, keeping in the gym focused on basketball work rather than weights and cardio."
And watching Duncan is like watching him in his early years. He is quick on his feet and strong in his shots. Add in the aggressive plays of Ginóbili, the amazing three-point shooting of Matt Bonner and the agility and speed of Danny Green and you have the next generation of the Spurs.
So, to me, the "old and slow" argument is null given the success over the years under Gregg Popovich and the current tenure of the team led by Duncan.
Argument 2: No Flash
Let's face it: The Spurs are not flashy. They don't have flashy players or flashy front-office leadership. Popovich, with his military background, runs the team like a cohesive unit, a business, focused on team process and solid game plans.
In an article by Kevin Arnovitz, he poses the argument that lack of flash leads to the notion of BORING:
For those who like their superstars to dazzle, Tim Duncan's charisma deficit and his mechanical game can be affronts. The Spurs have historically been defensive stalwarts, likelier to grind an opponent into submission, not run it off the court. Those qualities, along with a lack of interpersonal drama, might lull certain fans to sleep.
For years, Spurs players haven't expected media attention or seemed to want it (with the exception of the short-lived addition of Dennis Rodman). Let's take the current "team captain" Tim Duncan—it's common knowledge among sports media in San Antonio that Duncan would rather play video games than speak with the media.
Chris Ballard nailed it when he wrote:
[Duncan] is a man who has achieved so much yet continues to flee from the very thing so many others chase with a white-hot desperation: fame. Year after year Duncan has turned down interviews and endorsements that could have netted him millions. He hasn't feuded with teammates, used the media as a back channel to tweak his G.M. or forced out a coach.
Duncan isn't flashy. Matt Bonner isn't flashy. Even Manu Ginóbili wouldn't be defined as flashy. Popovich isn't a fan of the media. A running joke around town: Who is the lucky reporter to ask Coach Pop an idiotic question, only to regret its thoughtlessness?
So right there begins the argument. The Spurs don't have players that typically fight or cause controversy. The Spurs don't have players that have commercialized themselves. The team just plays basketball—and does it very well.
Considering all of this in comparison to the Miami Heat and LeBron James, I would argue that the latter is the direct opposite of what the Spurs represent. LeBron is the definition of flash, from his hour-long self-promotion "announcement" to his dunks to his postgame clothing. He has commercialized and commodified himself in the sports world.
Bleacher Report featured columnist Allen Levin wrote:
LeBron James comes off as one of the most egotistical and arrogant superstars the world of sports has ever seen (off the court). He spit on his hometown, he's made downright abrasive comments in the past (namely his 2011 Finals post-game press conference) and he's lost a lot of fans. But, his on-court greatness is something truly remarkable.
At the same time, some sports writers criticize and complain about flashy and pompous players/teams in sports—teams like the Spurs, whose players and team personality seem the opposite (winners, quiet, role models), are labeled as boring.
When the possibility of San Antonio playing Miami in the NBA Finals last year arose, one reporter commented on this very topic, stating:
San Antonio-Miami would represent team vs. stars, diligence and patience vs. instant gratification, humility vs. hype, international basketball culture vs. American basketball culture.
This perfectly explains our society’s strange dichotomy in sports. We LOVE flash yet hate it. We LOVE star power yet we call it greed. AND then, when we actually do get a team that seems to embody the best that sport fans want in a good and wholesome team, it is called boring.
American sports media fuels this and lives off of it. They give LeBron hour-long specials and features. Nike creates a $350 shoe with his name on it.
What about Tim Duncan—the two-time MVP, four-time NBA champion and three-time NBA Finals MVP? Nothing. But Duncan doesn’t need that. Or want it.
Why does the sports culture in America have such a love/hate relationship with flashy vs. boring? Is it sports media that fuels our desire for more? Or do we somehow naturally breed this need for bigger and better?
Why can’t we just be satisfied with good sports (and good sportsmanship) without all the fireworks and attention?
Sports media prefers flash, so it will promote flashy. The San Antonio Spurs are not flashy. The players typically aren't in your face, in every commercial, on every magazine cover...they just play. The Spurs organization breeds a certain culture that wouldn't be a good fit for flashy players.
But for our entertainment-focused, flamboyancy-loving sports society, that's not enough, I guess.
They are the quiet, understated giants in the basketball world (and the most successful franchise in sports), creating a dynastic history that other teams can only hope to achieve over the years. The Spurs just let their wins and championships do their talking.