The Spurs needed just five games to dispatch the two-time defending champions. They did it with impeccable ball movement, team defense and deadly shooting accuracy.
The passing on display drew raves from basketball observers. Grantland's Brian Phillips compared it to the Netherlands' "Total Football" in terms of fluid, interlocking play:
I watched that entire match without thinking of Total Football once. I thought of it 14 times during the Spurs game last night.— Brian Phillips (@runofplay) June 13, 2014
The Spurs utilized aging stars to dominate the Heat, but it was one of their nascent talents who made the biggest impact.
Kawhi Leonard—the one true athletic marvel on this fundamentally sound squad—didn't make an All-Star Game in 2013-2014, but he picked up an even more valuable piece of hardware.
ESPN's SportsCenter Twitter account has the scoop:
Kawhi Leonard becomes 1st non All-Star to win NBA Finals MVP since Chauncey Billups in 2004. pic.twitter.com/78FP2ERn4M— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 16, 2014
Leonard averaged 17.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game for the series, all while guarding LeBron James on defense. Leonard is the youngest NBA Finals MVP since Tim Duncan in 1999.
Duncan praised Leonard's performance while also giving a hint about his own future with the team, via Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy:
Tim Duncan feels "honored" to play with Kawhi Leonard. "He's going to be great for years to come and I'm going to hold on as long as I can."— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 16, 2014
Here are the details for the celebration set to take place in San Antonio.
River Walk Parade
Where: San Antonio River
Route: Arneson River Theater to Navarro Street Bridge
When: 6 p.m. local time
Live Stream: Spurs.com
When: 9 p.m. local time (doors open at 4:30 p.m.)
Live Stream: Spurs.com
(Note: Parade/celebration information courtesy of Josh Baugh of the San Antonio Express-News.)
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro was ebullient in his praise of the Spurs' championship efforts.
"The City is proud of our Spurs," said Castro, via a press release on the Spurs' official website. "This fifth championship cements the Spurs’ legacy as one of the greatest sports franchises in history."
The Spurs dynasty is different; coach Gregg Popovich and his charges played the long game, refusing to exchange short-term glory—via a hasty trade or a big free-agent signing—for the chance at sustained excellence.
Between 1999 and 2014, The Popovich-coached Spurs won five championships, six conference titles and 11 division titles. They didn't string together championships like Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal in the early 2000s, but they won a title or were at least a legitimate threat in three separate decades.
Popovich's ability to buck conventional wisdom and take the long view is reflected in his in-game strategy. He's notable for his substitution patterns and his willingness to sit stars. It has likely added years to the end of Duncan's career and allowed him to continue to play at a high level, even at the advanced age of 38.
|Season||Minutes per game||Pts per 36 minutes||Rebounds per 36 minutes|
The Spurs' celebration will also have a decidedly international flavor. As ESPN Stats & Info points out, the Spurs had more international players than any other championship team:
The Spurs will relish this celebration, as the team will face major changes in the coming years. The old guard of Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker is a combined 106 years old. Duncan has a player option for 2014-2015 and can opt out of his contract for next season, riding into the San Antonio sunset at the pinnacle of the sport. It would be a fitting end for one of the greatest power forwards in NBA history.
Will Tim Duncan play for the Spurs in 2014-2015?
Players such as Leonard and Patty Mills will be tasked with carrying this franchise into a new era of success. The roster will face changes, but the Spurs will be hard-pressed to continue their success if Popovich leaves. Popovich can see himself coaching beyond this season.
"I don't feel tired. I mean, I'm tired today, but I mean in general. I'd like to continue to coach," said Popovich, via ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne.
That is good news for Spurs fans, although Popovich is 65 years old and may not have much left to prove in the NBA. It is possible that this celebration is tinged with a gentle sadness as the beginning of the end for one of the most remarkable runs in NBA history.
Enjoy the parade, Spurs fans. Your team truly earned it.