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Why Tom Tangney is rooting for underdog San Antonio in NBA finals

A perfect contrast to Lebron James is the aging superstar of the San Antonio Spurs, Tim Duncan. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

I completely understand and endorse an NBA news blackout for Sonics fans who still feel burned by hated NBA commissioner David Stern who foiled our best efforts to bring the Kings to Seattle.

I’m personally on record wishing the NBA would implode, leaving nothing but wreckage as the lasting legacy of David Stern.

But the sports fan in me can’t help it – I’m still following the NBA playoffs – resentfully, of course. And Thursday, the NBA Finals start – a battle between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat.

There are all sorts of basketball reasons to be intrigued by this match-up, but beyond that, there are reasons for even non-fans to have a rooting interest.

And that rooting interest should be for the San Antonio Spurs.

For starters, the Miami Heat are the favorite. They are the reigning NBA champs, they had the best regular season record and went on a 27 game winning streak not long before the season ended, AND they have the best player in the game, Lebron James.

That makes the Spurs the underdog, and you gotta root for the underdog.

That’s not to say, the Spurs are “chopped liver.” They have won four NBA championships and, in fact, beat Lebron James in four straight games for their last championship in 2007.

I was even rooting for James that year.

Why? Because he was playing for the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers, a lousy team he was single-handedly making great. If he was still playing for the Cavaliers, I’d probably be rooting for him again this year. But no, three years ago, he orchestrated a media circus
around his decision to go to the much glitzier Miami market, and arranged to join with two other superstars to create a super-team. He promised not one or two championships but six or seven. That kind of hubris is not flattering.

A perfect contrast to Lebron James is the aging superstar of the San Antonio Spurs, Tim Duncan. Like James, Duncan was the #1 overall pick and went to the lowly San Antonio franchise. But unlike James, he stayed put – did not wander off to the flashier places like Los Angeles, New York or Boston. He turned San Antonio into winners, not move to a team that was already winning.

That has a lot to do with his personality, and the personality of his team. He’s not flashy, he’s not a show-off – he’s just effective, efficient. He’s not a braggart, just quietly confident.

You would never find him promising multiple NBA championships – he just earns them!

As one sportswriter puts it, he’s had an absolutely brilliant career, almost hidden in plain sight.

That goes for his entire team. Although they’ve won more championships than any other team recently, they’ve never been heralded like the Los Angeles Lakers or the Boston Celtics, or yes, the Miami Heat. They’re a small market team with a small market personality. They’re admired for their selfless team play but often criticized for being dull – for not being glitzy enough. They’re like the tortoise, not the hare.

Best of all, unlike most NBA teams who fire coaches and blow up teams every few years, the Spurs have kept their coach for 16 years. Their three star players have played their entire careers in San Antonio.

Let’s hope they have one last hurrah in them.


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