Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A positive Spurs column

After reading the New York Times’ front page slobbery kiss-up to LeBron James that barely even mentions the San Antonio Spurs, I was pleasantly surprised to find this excellent column in the Washington Post:

Duncan's Exclusive Company

Now that LeBron James has become ABC's savior of the NBA Finals -- and LeBron says he is honored to be compared to Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson and Gandhi -- we interrupt this homeroom crush for some genuine education.

The San Antonio Spurs are going to school Cleveland and win their fourth title, in six games or fewer, because they have the best player on the floor in the series. Tim Duncan, despite getting less love than jury duty, is maybe the largest difference-maker since Jordan....

When the Spurs are finished polishing off Cleveland, Duncan will not only eclipse Bird's three rings, he will join Magic and Michael as the only leading men with more than three championships with the same franchise since Bill Russell. Four decades after Russell, Duncan would join a class of three....

The perception of Duncan mirrored his team; he was coming off a season in which his body was breaking down and there simply were too many quick, young big men to rise over.

As usual, his detractors missed the importance of Duncan. His game has never been about explosiveness; it's about efficiency. His degree of difficulty has nothing to do with hang time and more to do with angles and trajectory, all the skill-level amenities missing from contemporary front-court players...

Drama is at a premium for Duncan, too; he's had the same coach, Gregg Popovich, his entire career. Often expressionless and unemotional since his days at Wake Forest, where the Duke student section referred to him as "Spock," there is a monotony to the way Duncan plays and carries himself that doesn't resonate in a culture run by celebrity.

He gets penalized for consistently playing and living between the lines while so many of his look-at-me peers obliterate the boundaries and become more popular for it. Polarization sells; professionalism is so '90s....

LeBron James reinvigorates the "Next Michael" debate after a sterling week of basketball. Meanwhile, if anyone wanted to look long and hard, Tim Duncan belongs at the top of that class more than Kobe, more than Dwyane Wade and certainly more than LeBron. More than any of them, he's won at a higher level.

Damn straight. Tim Duncan is a better ballplayer than James, who, to be fair, is still far too young and immature to make a good comparison. Duncan is just not as flashy. He is not the kind of player who is ever going to do a 360-degree spin, behind-the-head dunk. If Duncan has a clear shot at the basket, he is going to very carefully push the ball into the basket - very efficient, not very exciting. Duncan doesn’t play to the crowd, he plays to win.

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